Ask Grant: Do Booking Officers Check Immigration Status?

Remember this segment is meant to help and educate you if you ever have a similar type of question but is not meant to be legal advice. If you have any additional questions or desire more information contact or call us at 505.235.6777. This weeks question is on “ICE” and Immigration.


If a person does not have legal citizenship status in the United States, this is a valid concern. Unfortunately, the answer to the question isn’t as clear-cut as many would wish.

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

ICE is the division of the Federal government that enforces federal laws with regards to border control, immigration, trade, and customs. Known by many simply as “Immigration”, this is the group that has records of who is in the country legally and who isn’t. While ICE is a federal agency, they operate locally and can be found in many areas, especially those near U.S. borders.

If you are arrested, there is a very good chance that your information will be run through an ICE database. The trends of where ICE operates in an area can change frequently. They may operate out of the jail, the courthouse, or even outside the public defender’s office. Their staging locations and strategies of enforcement change depending on budget and threat priorities and assessments.

Your Rights

Even if you are in the country illegally, you still have some rights with regards to ICE. However, there are some things that you need to know. If you have alien registration documents and are over the age of 18, it is required by law for you to keep those on your person at all times. If an officer requests that you produce them, you will need to comply.

If you do not have any documents, it is never a good idea to show an officer fake documents or pretend to be someone else. You do have the right to refuse to answer questions about your immigration status or your citizenship. If you choose to tell an officer that you are not a U.S. citizen and then are unable to produce documents, it is very likely that you will be arrested. Remember that you always have the right to remain silent.
fingerprintingIf you are arrested by ICE, one of the most important things that you can do is to refuse to answer questions and tell the officer that you want to speak to a lawyer. You never need to sign anything that you don’t understand or sign anything that waives your rights. If you do sign something waiving your rights, ICE could try to deport you without giving you the opportunity to see a lawyer or go before a judge.

If there is the possibility of ICE becoming involved in your life, it is a good idea to carry the name and number of an attorney with you at all times. An immigration attorney who knows the complex criminal law system ought to be your first choice if this is a possible concern in your case.

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