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Immigration Visits: Your Rights & What to Expect at Your Door

Some of the most chaotic years in the history of the American immigration system unfolded during the Trump administration. One of the campaign promises that helped to get Trump elected was his idea of a “deportation force” that would bust down doors to round up undocumented immigrants who were facing pending removal proceedings. During these years, officers from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted many home visits looking for what some political analysts called “low-hanging fruit,” which refers to immigrants who have broken laws other than letting their visas expire.

If you’re a foreigner in the U.S., agents from any of the Homeland Security agencies that deal with immigration can visit your residence. Let’s say you skipped a secondary inspection at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana. In this case, agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may come to your door. If you received a Notice to Appear and decided not to do anything about it, ICE agents may show up after a few months and take you to immigration court. If you were separated from your spouse during a green card interview, inspectors from the regional fraud unit at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may pay an unannounced visit. Here are some recommendations from immigration attorneys in San Diego about what should be done when an immigration officer knocks on your door.

What to Do when Immigration Is at Your Door

Federal agents cannot enter private property without a warrant signed by a judge. If they force their way inside without a warrant, whatever they intend to do can be invalidated in court with a simple argument from an immigration law firm. Warrants must have an element of probable cause before judges can sign them. Many ICE and CBP warrants went through a “rubber stamp” approval process during the Trump era because of political pressure, but things have changed in recent years.

In the absence of a search or arrest warrant, there’s no reason for you to open the door to ICE or CBP agents. The agents may attempt to gain consent to enter through persuasion or intimidation. They can “play nice” or bang on the door to make you think they’ll break it down. You’re free to ask them questions, but you don’t have to answer theirs. If an immigration law firm is handling your case, this would be a perfect time to call the office. Make sure to let the agents know you’re doing so, and ask them to state their names plus the agency that sent them. Most seasoned agents will back down and leave your door at this point.

In the case of a visit by USCIS inspectors from the regional office, you’ll want to open the door and let them in. For the most part, these inspectors are assigned cases following interviews that resulted in suspicion. For example, they may pay an early-morning visit to a married couple applying for a green card because they want to see them in pajamas and with messy hair. If you choose to not open the door to USCIS inspectors, your case may fall apart. On the other hand, refusing to open the door to ICE or CBP agents who don’t have warrants will keep you out of detention.

If you need the best San Diego immigration lawyer in the event of an immigration visit to your home, contact KS Visa Law. We specialize in every aspect of immigration law, from naturalization to family-based immigration. Call us to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers today.

June 2024