Texas happens to be a border state in the U.S., which means it also happens to be a common entry point for people who emigrate to this country from other places of origin. Whether you have recently arrived in this state or have been living and working here for quite some time, you might experience moments of anxiety or confusion regarding yours or a loved one's legal status, as well as U.S. immigration laws in general. Such laws are complex, and policies often change.
This makes it difficult for the average person to stay updated unless he or she happens to have a legal background and is well-versed in immigration issues. Encountering an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer might rank high on your list of potentially unsettling experiences. It's critical to know your rights and how to protect them if a problem arises.
Are you a naturalized citizen?
Perhaps, your ultimate goal when you came to the United States to live was to become a U.S. citizen. If you accomplished that goal, congratulations are in order because the process is lengthy and studying can be challenging at times. Regarding the approach of ICE officers, however, it's always best to carry copies of legal status documents with you wherever you go.
You might think that because you are now a bona fide U.S. citizen you will not face any further challenges to your legal status. The fact is attaining citizenship is no guarantee that an ICE agent will not approach you at some point and ask questions. It's always best to be prepared to prove that you are a U.S. citizen.
Should you ask to leave the scene?
If a Texas police officer or ICE officer wants to take you into custody, there must be a legitimate reason for doing so. In most cases, the law enforcement officer in question must be able to show a valid arrest warrant. Especially if you are a U.S. citizen, you may ask to leave if an ICE officer is prompting you to enter his or her custody without just cause.
If you're not a U.S. citizen
Does being a non-citizen mean you do not have rights? If that's what someone is telling you, do not believe it. It's not true. While the state will not provide a public defender if you face detention, you have the same rights as anyone else. You can request the opportunity to contact a legal advocate.
Beyond that, you do not have to speak to answer an ICE agent's inquiries if you do not have the benefit of legal representation present at the time.
Never lie and never sign anything
It's never a good idea to try to fool an ICE officer or to make up answers if you choose to speak and do not know the answer to a particular question. If the government official speaking to you asks you to sign any documents at all, it's best to refuse unless and until you have legal representation present to provide support.