National Immigration Law Center
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Your Rights at Home and at Work

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Revised MAY 2008  |  Download Adobe reader symbol - PDF

Know Your Rights at Home and at Work


When may Immigration enter my home?

Immigration officers may not enter your home unless they have a “warrant.” A warrant is a document issued by a court or government agency. There are two types of warrant —  one for when they are coming to arrest you, and another for when they have permission from a judge to search your home. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can issue arrest warrants, but only a court can issue a search warrant.

  • If an officer knocks on your door, do not open it. Ask the officer through the closed door to identify himself. You can say, “Who are you with?” or “What agency are you with?”

  • The officer might say that he is with  “Department of Homeland Security” or “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” The officer might name another agency. No matter what, keep the door closed. Through the closed door, ask the officer if he has a warrant.

  • If he says “yes,” still do not open the door.  Ask him to show you the warrant by slipping it under the door. 

  • When examining the warrant, look for your name, your address, and a signature. This can help you decide whether or not the warrant is valid (true). The warrant will be in English. If you have trouble reading it or understanding it, get someone else in your house to help you read it or translate it, if possible.

  • If the warrant does not look valid, you should return it under the door and say it is incorrect.

  • If the warrant the officer shows you looks valid, look to see if it was issued by a court or by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

  • If the valid warrant was issued by a court and authorizes a search of your house, you should let the officer in the house. 

  • If the valid warrant looks like it was issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) but not a court, you have the right not to let the officer enter your house. If the warrant authorizes your arrest but not a search of your house, you may want to go outside to meet the officers but not let them in the house. This is especially important if you live with other people who might have immigration problems, because once you allow the officer into your house, he can ask questions of anyone else who is there, too.

  • If you do talk to the officer (again, outside your house — do not let him in), do not answer any questions. Do not sign any papers. Tell the officer you want to talk to a lawyer before you say anything. Do not provide any kind of identification documents that say what country you are from. Make sure not to carry any false documents with you at any time.

    • Another way an immigration officer can enter your home legally (besides if he has a valid warrant) is if you give the officer permission to enter.  This is called giving the officer your “consent” to enter your home.

  • If you open your door, or if the officer asks if he can come in and you say “yes,” you are probably consenting to his entering your home. 

  • The best thing to do is to keep the door closed and ask the officer to identify himself. Then ask to see a warrant. Do not open the door if he cannot show you a warrant.

  • An officer is not allowed to force you to consent to his entering your home. For example, if your house is surrounded by Border Patrol or Immigration cars with their lights flashing, and the officer is holding his gun as he asks for permission (your consent) to enter your home, and you say “yes” because you’re afraid, a court would probably not consider this to be valid consent. 

How can I protect myself if Immigration comes to my house?

If you hear that Immigration has been asking questions about you at your job or if you learn that Immigration is conducting an investigation at your job, it is possible that officers may show up at your house. 

  • Make sure that someone you trust knows where you are, and that you know how to reach them in case of an emergency (if you have been detained by Immigration).

  • You and your family or close friends should have the names and phone numbers of good immigration attorneys posted near the telephone at home so that they can call the attorney in case you are detained.

  • In general, it is also a good idea to keep a copy of your important papers (birth certificate, any immigration papers, etc.) at the home of a friend or relative whom you trust and can call in case you are detained.

What should I do if Immigration comes to my workplace?

Immigration officers are not allowed to enter your workplace — whether it is a factory, store, high rise, farm, or orchard — without permission from the owner or manager. If an officer does get permission, the officer is free to ask you questions about your immigration status. 

  •  You have a right to keep silent. In most states, you don’t even have to tell the agent your name. Although you may want to provide your name only so your family or attorney can locate you.

  •  You also have the right to talk to a lawyer before you answer any questions. You can tell the officer, “I wish to talk to a lawyer,” in response to any question the officer asks you.

  •  You do not need tell the immigration officer where you were born or what your immigration status is. 

  •  You do not have to show the officer your papers or any immigration documents. If the officer asks you for your papers, tell the officer, “I wish to talk to a lawyer.”

What can my union do?

If you belong to a labor union, there are ways it can help you. You should talk to your union representative about your concerns. If it would make you feel more comfortable, ask some of your co-workers to go with you to talk to your representative. Your union contract might have language that protects union members, such as an agreement with the employer that has one or more of the following provisions:

  • The employer will not allow any Immigration officers to enter the workplace without a valid warrant signed by a federal judge or magistrate

  • The employer will immediately notify the union if the Immigration authorities contact the employer for any purpose so that the union can take steps to inform its members about their legal rights or to help them obtain legal assistance.

  • The employer will allow lawyers or community advocates brought by the union to interview employees in as private a setting as possible in the workplace.  The union might also have a legal plan, which provides workers with immigration attorneys.

  • The employer agrees not to reveal the names, addresses, or immigration status of any employees to Immigration, unless required by law.

  • The employer will not participate in any computer verification of employees’ immigration or work authorization status.