The first story in the article involves a text message. An alien, whose name was withheld in the article, allegedly received a text message addressing him by name from an “Officer Smith.” In the message, “Officer Smith” provided the individual with his address and encouraged him to call with any questions. According to attorneys for the alien, once Officer Smith, who turned out to be an agent of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) got the man on the phone, he “manipulated [the alien] into divulging his native country and immigration status.” The story suggests that ICE was collecting information against the alien — suspected of being in the United States illegally and having just been charged with a misdemeanor — for use in future immigration proceedings. The story states that ICE confirmed the veracity of the message.
As the story notes, texting targets for immigration enforcement would appear to be a new tactic by the ICE. It is unclear if the report represents an isolated case or if this practice is being employed elsewhere. The article notes that this tactic is troubling for reasons other than that it would serve to solicit information from immigration enforcement targets while attempting to circumvent their ability to consult with an attorney because scammers often pose as immigration officials in order to take advantage of individuals in the United States. For example, please see our blog on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alert on scammers from last April [see blog].
If an alien receives a cryptic text from anyone professing to be an immigration official or an officer or agent of any sort, he or she should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for assistance in ascertaining the legitimacy of the contact. Regardless of whether an individual is ultimately subject to immigration enforcement, he or she has the right to decline to communicate with the officer unless legal counsel is present. Individuals should avail themselves to the right to seek legal counsel when dealing with law enforcement in order to ensure that their rights and interests are protected. Furthermore, if the text message is not from immigration enforcement, it is quite likely from a scammer looking to steal personal information for nefarious ends.
The second story in the article is quite overtly troubling. In this instance, The Portland Mercury reported that ICE agents entered a home without a search or arrest warrant to arrest an individual whom the agents suspected of being in the United States illegally. The individual asked the ICE agents if they had a warrant on multiple occasions, but the arresting agent wrongly claimed that such a warrant was not required. Fortunately, the incident was caught on tape, and the ICE released the individual on the same day while acknowledging the questionable circumstances of the arrest. The ICE stated that it is “reviewing the incident.”
ICE's function is to enforce the immigration laws, but it must do so within the parameters of the law. The individual in the case described in the article was correct to question the right of the ICE agents to enter the home uninvited and without a warrant. Again, it is important for any alien who is arrested to consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately to ensure that his or her rights and interests are protected.
We certainly hope that the incidents described in the article are closer to aberrations than new widespread policies. It is incumbent on ICE to follow the law in all circumstances. We are committed to vigorously representing our clients in all cases.