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What to do if ICE approaches you on the street

Living in New Jersey as an immigrant can be quite challenging. If you experienced a severe language barrier upon your arrival, it may have been difficult just to understand what people were saying to you or to ask simple questions of others. Hopefully, as time went on, you were able to overcome many obstacles to begin to build a new, successful life in the U.S.  

If you're one of thousands of immigrants whose paperwork may not have been fully in order when you crossed a U.S. border, then you may worry about certain issues that aren't problematic for others. For instance, do you get afraid if you see law enforcement agents in public? It's critical that you understand U.S. immigration law and know how to protect your rights, especially if an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer starts asking you questions.  

Things to do and not do when confronted by ICE 

It would likely be quite upsetting for you and your family if an ICE official interrupts your day at a park or some other social event by approaching you and demanding to know your name. The following list includes things you can do to avoid legal problems, as well as things you don't want to do that can make your situation worse: 

  • If an ICE officer calls you by name and asks you to confirm your identification, you may respond by simply asking if you are free to leave rather than answering the direct question. 
  • You can invoke the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent without legal representation present if the officer tells you that you are not free to go.
  • It's never a good idea to try to flee the scene.
  • It's also not a good idea to lie or in any way try to falsify documents or information.
  • Never release possession of your passport, consular ID or visa, especially if it is an expired visa. 
  • You do not have to share any information about your birthplace or your legal status without the opportunity to act alongside experienced legal guidance.   

Another thing you shouldn't do if an ICE agent approaches you in public is sign any document he or she asks you to sign. If you say or do the wrong thing, you may wind up making matters worse for yourself and your family. The good news is that there are support networks in place to help you to rectify problem situations that threaten your ability to remain in the United States. 

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