For weeks, the Trump Administration has been threatening to deport "millions" of illegal immigrants. The on-again, off-again plan seems to be on again (sort of), and so let's discuss who might be targeted, and what to do if ICE comes calling.

Before we get to that, I think it is important to understand something about the rhetoric of President Trump and his aids: Through their words and their actions, they are trying to terrorize non-citizens. Unfortunately, they are largely succeeding, and many people throughout the U.S. are living in a state of dread. Perhaps the President and his supporters can argue that this is about enforcing the law, and about deterring foreigners from coming here. But it seems to me that the law can be enforced without the cruel words and rhetorical games, such as Mr. Trump's gleeful tweet that unless Congress can work out a solution to the "Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border... Deportations start!" From where I sit, this is pure cruelty, and the harm to regular people--non-citizens and their citizen family members--and to our nation is very real.

In a case of giving advice that I would have a hard time accepting myself, I think it is important to ignore the Administration's words as much as possible. By this, I don't mean that non-citizens should tune out, since it is important to know what's happening in order to protect yourself. But dwelling on the Administration's threats and bluster is mentally exhausting, and it serves no purpose (other than perhaps to further the President's goal of terrorizing you). Despite it all, so far, Mr. Trump's bark has proved far worse than his bite (in terms of deportations, the opposite might be said of President Obama).

And so while the rhetoric is bad, and bad things are happening, they are not happening on the scale that the President likes to claim. The "millions" of deportations is now down to two thousand, and even that may be difficult to accomplish given the government's limited resources and the advance notice provided by the Commander-in-Chief. In short, the situation is not as bad as it may appear, and it is important to not let the stress and fear become overwhelming.

Turning to the raids themselves, who is a target? We don't precisely know, since ICE keeps its cards close to the vest, but the New York Times reports that ICE will target individuals and families with final orders of deportation, particularly those who entered the country recently. Also, according to RAICES, an immigration non-profit, raids will occur in 10 different cities.

If you have legal status in the United States, or if you have a pending application in Immigration Court or at the Asylum Office, the raids should not directly affect you. Indeed, from what we know so far, unless you actually have been ordered deported by an Immigration Judge and that order is final (meaning, you did not appeal or your appeal was denied), you are not a target of the raids.

On the other hand, if you do have a final order of removal, you could be a target. It likely does not matter how long you have been in the U.S., whether you have family here, or whether you are otherwise law-abiding. If you live in one of the targeted cities, the risk is probably greater than if you live elsewhere, but we cannot be sure about that--raids could occur anywhere.

Also, ICE officers are perfectly happy to arrest any "illegal" who they encounter, even if that person is not the target of a raid. So if you live with a person who is a target, or you spend time with such a person, or if you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could find yourself affected by a raid. For this reason, it is good for all non-citizens to be prepared.

So how do you prepare? The ACLU also has a helpful webpage in many different languages. Also, the National Immigration Law Center recommends the following for people without status (I have slightly edited this list):
  • If you encounter ICE agents, remain silent, or tell the ICE agent that you want to remain silent.
  • Ask to speak with a lawyer.
  • Do not carry false documents.
  • Carry a “know your rights” card (PDF)
  • Find out the name and phone number of a reliable immigration attorney and keep this information with you at all times.
  • Know your “alien registration number” (“A” number) if you have one, and write it down someplace at home where your family members can find it.
  • Prepare a form or document that authorizes another adult to care for any minor children.
  • Advise family members who do not want to be questioned by ICE to stay away from any place where a raid occurred or where a detained person is being held.
  • Do not sign any U.S. government documents without first speaking with a lawyer.

More generally, have a plan. Make sure a trusted family member or friend has access to your immigration information and documents. Maybe scan or photograph your documents and save them online. Make a plan with your immediate family about what to do in the event of a raid - who to call, where to go.

If you have a deportation order, realize that you are a target for ICE. If ICE or any part of the U.S. government has your home, work or school address, they could come there to arrest you. If you are in an area where raids are likely to occur, you also face risk, as ICE can detain anyone without status, even if that person was not the specific target of the raid. One thing you can do affirmatively is to talk to a lawyer--if there is a basis to re-open your case, you are probably better off getting started now rather than waiting until you are detained.

Non-citizens who are in-status also need to be careful and should be aware of their rights. Carry your Green Card, EAD or other documents with you (in some cases a non-citizen is required to carry such documents), or at least carry a copy of them. And keep a copy at your house, online, or with a trusted friend, in case you lose the original.

If you do not have status but have a pending case, carry copies of your receipts or Immigration Court scheduling order, and--if you have it--a photo ID. Such documents should provide protection against arrest.

If you are arrested, there are actions that you (or more likely, your lawyer) can take: File a motion to reopen a closed case, request a stay of removal, file a motion for bond. So even an arrest may not be the end of the story, if you are prepared to take action.

Finally, try to keep things in perspective. In 2016, there were over 950,000 people in the U.S. with removal orders. This is the most recent data I could find, and I suspect that the numbers are even higher today. If ICE hopes to arrest 2,000 people in these raids, that accounts for only about 1 person in 500 of those in the U.S. with a deportation order. And even if they arrest more than that, the likelihood of any one individual being targeted is quite low. These raids are more about frightening people than about effective immigration enforcement. Keep that in mind and make sure you are prepared. These are the best ways to get through this difficult time.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: