Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fanned out across the Houston area on Monday morning. In a heavily Hispanic neighborhood in southwest Houston, Kaylin Garcia saw them.
She took a photo with her cellphone and alerted her neighbors to the raid. This is how they helped foil the operation. ICE has no right to enter people’s homes without a warrant. Learn more about ICE Immigration Enforcement in Houston TX.
How ICE Interacts With Local Law Enforcement
Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country. One in four residents are foreign-born and half speak a non-English language at home. More refugees are resettled here than in any other city. These people have rights, including to health, prosperity, and stability. But many of those rights are threatened by immigration enforcement, detention, and deportation.
ICE has two law enforcement directorates: the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). HSI’s legal authority covers a broad range of domestic and international crimes that involve the illegal movement of people, money and goods into, within or out of the United States.
Local trust policies, limited requests for immigration status information and narrowly focused immigration enforcement priorities encourage constructive cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement agencies. These promising local policies can help guide future federal changes to ICE’s policies.
How ICE Arrests Undocumented Immigrants
ICE has reported no raids in Houston since Hurricane Harvey, although they have made a lot of arrests elsewhere in the country. Immigration advocates are concerned that a fear of deportation will prevent people from seeking the assistance they need after such a catastrophic event.
In fact, many undocumented immigrants have been waiting in lines for hours outside ICE offices in Greenspoint for their mandatory ICE check-ins. They often do not have the ability to call a lawyer, and without an attorney, people are nearly five times more likely to lose their case in court and be deported.
It is also important for individuals to know that they do not have to reveal their immigration status to police or other law enforcement officers. However, they should be aware that any information they provide can be used against them in court. They should remain calm and do not run, argue, or resist an officer if they are approached.
How ICE Detains Undocumented Immigrants
ICE keeps people in detention centers until they can post bond or win their case and stay in the United States. People in ICE custody experience medical neglect, isolation, and physical and sexual abuse. It is a human rights crisis.
People who have an attorney in the immigration system are ten times more likely to successfully defend themselves against deportation. Yet nearly 70 percent of people detained in the Houston area do not have an attorney.
Even though Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has halted the sheriff’s collaboration with ICE, his office still screens jail inmates to check their immigration status and records. In the meantime, activists are going door-to-door to pass out fliers and inform people of their rights. They are also calling on the Biden administration to end Trump-era policies like Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ that criminalize migrants. They are also demanding an immediate halt to the escalating raids and increased detention.
How ICE Deports Undocumented Immigrants
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has multiple methods to track and arrest undocumented immigrants for deportation. The agency follows tips, conducts workplace raids and stops people at highway checkpoints. ICE also detains migrants at its contract detention facilities and county jails that are approved to house detainees.
Those who are in the country illegally and have no legal right to stay in the US can be deported quickly without ever going before an immigration judge. Many people in detention languish in the system for months or years, and most do not have an attorney. High quality legal representation makes a huge difference in whether someone is granted the right to remain in the United States.
Civil rights organizations are attempting to educate undocumented people about their rights and how to avoid deportation. They are holding Know Your Rights seminars, handing out informational fliers and asking communities to sign a pledge not to let ICE agents into their homes.