What Should I Do If I am Detained By ICE?

Hi, I am Jennifer Walker Gates with Walker Gates Vela. Today’s immigration law question comes from Daniel in Harlingen, Texas. Daniel asks, “What should I do if I’m detained by ICE?” If you are in the United States and you are undocumented, you must unfortunately face the reality that you are at risk of being detained by ICE and questioned. This can happen if you are arrested for a crime or even if you’re simply pulled over in your car for having a taillight out or an expired inspection sticker.

However, just because you’re detained and questioned by ICE does not mean that you will immediately be deported. In order to protect yourself and your family from the devastating consequences of deportation, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities in case of an ICE detention.

The three most important things to know if you’re detained by ICE are: Don’t say anything, don’t sign anything, and talk to your lawyer. In the United States, the right to remain silent with law enforcement officers is enshrined in our Constitution. Therefore, if you’re detained by ICE, the only thing you should say is, “Thank you. With all due respect, I wish to talk to my lawyer. I decline to comment without first talking to my lawyer.” It is important to be respectful. Don’t make the ICE agents your enemy, but more important is that you not reveal too much to ICE until your lawyer has analyzed your case and informed you about the best course of action.

The second rule for ICE detentions is don’t sign anything, especially if you’re unable to read and clearly understand what you’re signing, do not sign anything. Many immigrants come to Walker Gates Vela having spent many years in the United States, having built a family and contributed a lot to this country. However, because they signed a voluntary departure order during an ICE detention, they are often ineligible for any benefits with immigration because crossing out of the United States and back in without permission can destroy your chances of ever becoming a legal resident in this country.

Signing a voluntary departure might make your detention with ICE shorter, it might seem like a better idea than fighting your case in the immigration courts with lawyers and judges and all of that stress and expense. However, if you leave the United States and then are caught reentering illegally, you can be charged with a felony and sentenced to time in federal prison. Given the level of crime and danger at the US-Mexico border, you could also be risking your life by leaving, and trying to come back without permission.

So well, it might take longer to get out of detention, refusing to sign a voluntary departure is extremely important for your future immigration status in this country. So, remember if you’re detained by ICE, your job is don’t say anything, don’t sign anything. Instead, call us at Walker Gates Vela at 512-633-1785 and let us help you get out of detention.


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Do I Have To Leave The U.S. When Applying For Residency?

Hi, I’m Jennifer with Walker Gates Vela. Today’s question comes from Jose in Waco, Texas. He says, if I’m applying for my residency, do I still have to leave the United States and go to my home country to get it?

This is a good question that a lot of people wonder about. The answer, of course, is maybe. Let me explain. If you enter the United States without a visa, then you probably need to get a waiver in order to become a resident. In early 2013, the Immigration Service changed the way that it processes applications for these waivers. Before, applicants for waivers had to wait outside the United States while Immigration was making a decision on the waiver.

Now, many applicants are eligible to apply for the waiver and wait for a decision here in the United States. So, if you enter the US without permission and you need a waiver, you still have to travel to your home country to get your residency. But the amount of time that you will have to be there is a lot less than it was before if you are eligible to apply for the waiver using the new process. Most people are only outside the United States for a week or two now; whereas before, the wait outside the country was sometimes a year or more.

The only people who can use the new waiver process are spouses of US citizens who only need the waiver because of an unlawful entry and not for any other reason.

Husbands and wives of permanent residents may apply for residency, but they cannot use the new waiver process. Spouses and other family members of residents and US citizens still have to wait outside the United States while their waivers are processed. Also, people who need a waiver for anything other than an unlawful entry cannot use the new waiver process. For example, if you need a waiver because you have a criminal record, you cannot use the new waiver process and you’ll have to wait outside the United States for your waiver application to be adjudicated.

If you would like assistance determining whether you qualify to apply for a waiver and how it will be adjudicated, call us at (512) 633-1785 in Austin or in Corpus Christi at (361) 356-4502 to schedule a consultation. We look forward to meeting you and learning about your case.


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