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There Are Limits To What Immigration And Customs Enforcement Can Do During Raids


As we've heard, there's a lot of fear and confusion about the threatened ICE raids. There are limits to what Immigration and Customs Enforcement can do. To break that down, we're joined by Hemanth Gundavaram of Northeastern University. He teaches law there and co-directs of the school's Immigrant Justice Clinic. Welcome to the program.

HEMANTH GUNDAVARAM: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Help us understand what happens when ICE knocks on the door of someone that they are looking to detain. What are their responsibilities, and what are the rights of the folks inside?

GUNDAVARAM: So the Constitution applies to every single person who is in the United States. It really - in the Fifth Amendment, the 14th Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, there's a provision that says no person shall be denied various rights. So what a noncitizen can do if, for example, someone from ICE knocks on their door, is not let the person in without some kind of court order or warrant from a judge. The second right that I really advocate for people to know and to exercise is the right to remain silent, to not say anything, to not answer any questions. And the third one is the right to not sign anything.

CORNISH: Do deportation officers have a track record of entering homes, for instance, without court orders?

GUNDAVARAM: You know, it's hard to say. I think what we do know happens often is the noncitizen doesn't know their rights, and they might see a document, maybe a notice to appear, from Immigration. That document does not give ICE rights to come into the person's home, but they might have let the person in thinking that that document is some kind of court order.

CORNISH: So there's a piece of paper waving around, and you think, oh, boy, I've got to comply.

GUNDAVARAM: Exactly, and especially with someone who's part of what looks like law enforcement. And if you, for example, can't read the document then you might let someone in.

CORNISH: Yesterday we heard from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. He said he's against the ICE raids. Can you give us an example of something local governments can do?

GUNDAVARAM: I think local governments can't necessarily stop ICE officers from doing anything. What they can do is not assist ICE officers. And there's a number of ways in which local law enforcement, local counties, local law officials can do. One of the things is not to honor detainers when ICE asks local law enforcement to hold a noncitizen past the time of which they're allowed to hold the person in order for ICE or Immigration officials to get to the person and detain them. The resistance can come in the form of not giving information, not helping, not using resources to ensnare noncitizens into the immigration and criminal system.

CORNISH: But clearly, that depends on the politics of any given city.

GUNDAVARAM: Yeah. I mean, we have this thing called - you know, you hear about it all the time - the sanctuary cities, sanctuary counties, sanctuary states. There's hundreds of counties, dozens of cities and a few states that have a different spectrum of the ways in which they're not complying or I guess not helping the federal government do its job.

CORNISH: Can you explain what will happen next for families if they're caught up in this weekend's raids?

GUNDAVARAM: I think it's a difficult thing. What will likely happen is they would be put into detention. They would have to either defend the deportation or come up with some sort of relief from the removal itself. There's many forms of relief from removal - cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal. Or they have to somehow fight the reason they're in detention, which is very difficult to do without an attorney.

CORNISH: Aren't you all slammed already?

GUNDAVARAM: Yeah. So in terms of - so that's sort of the second aspect, right, is in terms of actual representation. I think immigration attorneys historically have been operating at full capacity. And now if it even makes sense to say that you're beyond full capacity, I think one of the problems with the immigration system is that an immigrant doesn't have a guaranteed right to counsel the way that they do in criminal court.

CORNISH: That's Hemanth Gundavaram of Northeastern University. Thank you for joining us.

GUNDAVARAM: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.