Although the U.S. department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was only created in 2003, it feels like it's been around forever. Perhaps that's due to its impact on immigrants and their families. ICE has stepped up its detention and deportation efforts over the past couple years, with immigration arrests rising 30 percent in 2017 over the previous year. Those arrests have occurred at courthouses, schools, and even hospitals.
And there has been no shortage of stories involving people, including sheriff's officers and even school principals, threatening to call ICE on people they think may be illegal immigrants. So, what should you do if someone threatens to call ICE on you or or someone you know?
In many instances, threats to call ICE are empty attempts to bully or intimidate someone. The person making the threat has no intention of following through, and either wants to instill fear in someone whose immigration status may be in question, or get that person to do (or refrain from doing) something.
Just because they are empty threats doesn't make them any less frightening or disturbing, but bullying tactics may not require the same kind of a response as a serious intent to contact immigration authorities. So try to discern the person's genuine purpose when making the threat before you panic. A random person in a coffee shop, for instance, is not as likely to follow through and call ICE as a law enforcement officer might be.
If you believe someone will actually contact ICE, the law and lawyers may be able to help. First there are local and state laws that prohibit certain people from asking about immigration status and making threats based on that status. Schools are sanctuaries, for students at least, and public schools cannot deny access based on a student's nationality or immigration status. So, threats by school personnel or administrators can be illegal or unconstitutional.
Some jurisdictions are so-called sanctuary cities or states, wherein local law enforcement declines to cooperate with federal immigration officials under certain circumstances. So even police officers may be barred from inquiring about immigration status or making threats based on that status. And you have rights if ICE agents show up at your door.
If someone legitimately threatens to call ICE on you and you fear detention or deportation, contact an immigration attorney immediately. A lawyer can ascertain your legal status, advocate for your rights, and perhaps prevent or end detention or deportation proceedings. Contact one in your area today.