As stories erupt all over the country of people detained and interrogated at airports regardless of nationality or legal status, attorneys are continuing to warn ALL people who were not born on US soil to be concerned about traveling overseas, despite the current lift on the ban.  If you haven’t yet heard the story of the 5 year-old boy who was interrogated for hours at the airport while handcuffed to ensure he is not a “security threat,” it is not a joke. The White House defended it at a press conference.

Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is one of the least regulated and least cared about federal departments in the US. A 3- year lawsuit by the National Immigrant Justice Center revealed a failed system that lacks accountability, shields DHS from public scrutiny, and allows local governments and private prison companies to brazenly maximize profits at the expense of basic human rights.  This comes as no shock to those of us who have worked with immigrants and refugees for years – we’ve seen our fair share of mysterious happenings and absolute inability to access people who were detained.  In the Unaccompanied Children’s shelters, the protections they are given by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, placing them in shelters meeting strict child welfare safety standards, end the minute they turn 18, despite open asylum claims or other humanitarian visas in process. These kids will wake up on their birthday to ICE at the shelter door, be put in handcuffs and taken away to the detention center in front of 50 other kids.  Every time.

Once a person is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), s/he is not allowed access to many of the rights we are used to in the US, including:

  • The right to counsel: Unlike defendants in the criminal justice system, immigrants without resources to hire a lawyer have no guaranteed right to legal representation; including children.
  • The right to a fair hearing: Immigration law mandates detention and deportation for a large number of specific offenses, regardless of any mitigating or humanitarian considerations
  • The right to challenge detention: Immigrants can be locked up for years without bond while they fight their deportation cases.
  • The right to a proportionate sanction: Immigrants detained and deported for past convictions are punished twice over: having already paid their debt to society in the criminal justice system, they are then banished for life from their homes, families, and communities.
  • The right to judicial review: For immigrants, the opportunity to appeal detention or deportation decisions are extremely limited
  • The right to equal treatment: The “statute of limitation” does not exist in immigration law, where an individual may be charged with an offense no matter when it was committed and even if the offense was not a crime at the time.

These are times we all should be extra prepared. If traveling overseas, attorneys recommend to carry numbers of two attorneys and the number of the ACLU. Be prepared for the city which is your point of entry into the US. Carry children’s birth certificates. Carry these things on your body as your possessions may be taken. We will be posting updates and safety tips soon on our website, so stay tuned.

Be safe everyone.

** We at RAIN International do not provide legal advice through our website or outreach campaigns – any legal information posted is from public and or government informational websites. If you have specific questions about your immigration situation or about those you love, please do not hesitate to contact an immigration attorney to learn your rights in detail as they apply to your situation.

We want to hear your story.

Originally published Feb. 3, 2017