The Biden administration recently announced restrictions on the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to arrest illegal immigrants at or near courthouses. With this latest directive, immigration agents will only be making arrests if the immigrant involved is a threat to national security or to public safety and those who have crossed the border since Nov. 01. ICE has already created a new appeals process for immigrants to challenge arrests, detentions, and deportations.
Previously, the Trump administration had authorized immigration officers to arrest suspected illegal immigrants at courthouse. This move was supposed to prioritize dangerous immigrants, but it did not keep agents from making unnecessary arrests. That approach created many arrests and deportations in and near courthouses across the country.
In Pennsylvania, there have been notable cases of arrest and deportation, including the arrest of a Mexican national paying a fine for a traffic violation. In one county, ICE agents have arrested immigrants before they have even entered into courthouses.
How will This Benefit Immigrants?
While resistance to this process came from many corners, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice leaders under the previous administration said that the arrests were necessary due to many cities across the country designating themselves as sanctuaries. Therefore, this shift may benefit many immigrants who have grown fearful of going to court after the myriads of arrests that occurred at courthouses throughout the United States.
Immigrant rights groups had criticized arrests at or near the courthouse by federal agents. They pointed out that the arrests can be seen as a way to silence those who may have been a witness or victim to a crime. It created suspicion among immigrants for local law enforcement and courthouse personnel as well. According to a Temple University 2019 report, federal agents received help from local authorities who provided information on immigration statuses.
The courthouse arrests spurred several local and state efforts aimed to restrict the federal agents from doing so. By 2020, states like New York and California passed laws restricting ICE arrests in courthouses, and federal court judges also blocked the apprehensions in certain states.
ICE Restriction in Philadelphia Courthouses
Philadelphia was one of those cities that came up with a plan to limit ICE arrests in its courthouses. Immigrants in Philadelphia had some protections from ICE arrests in courthouses for over two years already, via a 2019 an agreement between the DHS and the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement in the courthouses.
Under that pact, which immigration rights groups hailed as a step forward for immigrants, ICE agents in plain clothes are required to reveal whether or not they are armed and where they intend to go. The deputies can then alert their supervisors, who can contact the judge in the courtroom where the agent planned to go. Sheriff’s deputies provide security for all courthouses in Philadelphia.
What Should I Do if I am Arrested?
There are still possibilities of non-legal immigrants being arrested and possibly deported, even though restrictions are being placed on the process now. If an individual is asked about citizenship status, it is important to know their rights. Speaking with an immigration lawyer is the best way to ensure that one is taking the right steps to become a citizen and knows the best way to approach situations where a federal agent asks about immigration status.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are several steps that immigrants can do to protect themselves in these situations.
Right to Remain Silent
The right to remain silent means that the immigrant does not have to discuss their immigration status with police. In the case of customs officers, they can ask individuals about their immigration status when the individuals are entering or leaving the country. Lawful permanent residents (LPR) only need to answer questions regarding identity and permanent residency, nothing else. It is important to note that non-citizen visa holders may be denied entry into the U.S. if they refuse to answer an officer’s questions.
In some states, immigrants need to provide their names to law enforcement if asked to do so. This does not mean they need to answer other questions.
Those who are over 18 years old should keep immigration papers handy at all times. If immigration agents ask for the papers, those must be produced. If the immigrant does not have them, the next step is to ask for a lawyer, or state to the officer that their choice is to remain silent.
Refuse Unjust Search
Immigration agents may ask if they can conduct a search on the immigrant and their belongings. The immigrant has the right to deny an unlawful search. Agents do not have the right to search immigrants without consent and probable cause.
It is important to remember to remain calm and not to run or resist the officer, even if it looks like rights are being violated. Do not lie about immigration status or provide false documents. If an immigrant is driving and gets pulled over by an officer, the officer can ask to see their license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. However, the immigrant does not have to answer questions about their immigration status.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Represent Immigrants Subjected to Unjust Arrests
Immigration law is complicated, and there have been many recent changes to it, including the limitation of ICE arrests near courthouses. To protect your rights throughout the process and help you become a U.S. citizen, it is best to call a Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. today. Call us at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.