Immigrants worried about increased ICE enforcement under Trump can prepare to defend themselves now by beginning an immigration file. Gathering vital information and documents now will save precious time if you are detained, and allow an immigration attorney to represent you more efficiently and effectively. (Note, this focuses on immigration case preparation, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center has a helpful guide with your legal rights and suggestions for day-to-day issues if a foreign national is detained.)
One huge challenge assisting people detained by ICE is that the family members looking for help on their behalf often do not know all the necessary information to evaluate the case right away. Similarly, they may not be able to get essential documents for their defense. This can mean the loved one spends more time in detention or has a weaker defense.
Therefore, if you are concerned about being detained by ICE, you should gather information and documents now, and put them in a file a loved one can access if you are detained. Also, I strongly recommend memorizing the cell phone number of someone who knows where the papers are and is permitted to find an attorney for you. If you are detained, you may not have access to the contacts in your phone, so will need to know the number.
Your immigration file should include the following:
1. Immigration history– this will be vital to any immigration evaluation.
a. Information: When did you come to the U.S.? Did you ever leave? Have you ever had contact with immigration authorities before? Has anyone ever filed a visa petition for you or an immediate family member?
b. Documents: Any immigration-related document you have.
2. Family– Your family ties may make you eligible for immigration benefits, or be a strong reason to argue you should be released.
a. Information- Names and immigration statuses of your parents, spouse, and children.
b. Documents- birth certificates, marriage certificates, copies of immigration identification (work permits, residency cards, etc.
3. Criminal history– Your criminal history may determine if you are eligible for any defenses or release on bond.
a. Information- a summary, including dates and dispositions of all arrests.
b. Documents- court complaint and disposition of all arrests.
4. Fear of return to your home country– if you are afraid to go back to your home country, it will be important to present this to immigration authorities
a. Information- a brief explanation of why you are afraid to go back. Who would harm you? Why? Were you ever harmed in your home country previously?
b. Documents- if available, any medical or police reports about incidents of harm in your home country. If you do not have these documents, consider having somone in your home country send them to you now.
5. Work/taxes- your job and a history of tax payment make show ties to the U.S. and good moral character.
a. Information- your work history for the last 10 years, and whether you have paid taxes.
b. Documents- tax returns, federal only, ideally for the last ten years.
Again, this is just a start, and not a full list. If you are detained, your attorney will likely need more information and documents, but these materials will be very helpful in providing concrete advice as quickly as possible, and may also strengthen your case.
Also, while creating this file may be scary, it is also worth keeping in mind this file could be very helpful if you are eligible for immigration benefits as well. The documents and information above would be vital not only to fighting your removal, but also preparing for any sort of application for immigration benefits such as adjustment of status or TPS.
Bean, Lloyd, Mukherji, & Taylor is an immigration law firm in Oakland, California, emphasizing family-based immigration, removal defense, and naturalization.
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