What to Do If You are a U.S. Citizen and Detained By I.C.E.

Earlier this year, VICE News reported on a shocking story out of Kentucky: Rony Chavez Aguilar, a United States citizen who was born in Guatemala, was held in an ICE detention facility for nearly 20 days, unable to speak to his lawyer or to get in front of a judge. Under U.S. federal law, this is a serious violation. ICE is legally prohibited from detaining American citizens for an extended period of time without charging them. Following his release, Mr. Aguilar filed a lawsuit against the agency.

This Case is Not Unique

The case of Mr. Aguilar is truly shocking and unnerving. However, the evidence suggests that his case is far from unique. According to an analysis conducted by researchers at National Public Radio (NPR), many American citizens find themselves in a similar, helpless position. Based on information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request, NPR identified more than 800 different cases of U.S. citizens being unlawfully detained inside ICE detention facilities for an extended period of time. Unsurprisingly, the victims of this misconduct were disproportionately people of color, particularly those from a Latin American background.

Three Things You Should Do If You are Detained in an ICE Raid


  • Make Your Status As an American Citizen Clear


Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, immigration officials cannot detain an American citizen without charging them with a crime and bringing them before a judge. Unfortunately, this same right is not currently granted to undocumented immigrants in a similar circumstance. As a result, you could find yourself detained, unable to demonstrate citizenship to prove that the detention is unlawful. If this happens to you, please be sure to clearly, repeatedly and politely state to the officers that you are a U.S. citizen.


  • Request to Go Before a Judge


You should then request to go before an immigration judge as soon as possible. If you can get before a judge, you can once again make your citizenship status known to the court. This will allow you to get the process moving forward so that action can be taken.

  • Request Consultation With Your Attorney

Throughout your time in detention, you should request access to your attorney. If you go before a judge, and deportation or removal proceedings are initiated, you need to be represented by an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will be able to take action to obtain the documentation necessary to prove your citizenship before the court. Then, your attorney will be able to advise you on what steps to take next to get justice in your case.

Our Firm Supports Immigrants in L.S.

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are proud to support immigrants, both documented and undocumented. If you or a family member needs immigration law advice, please contact our immigration lawyer in Los Angeles today. From our office in Los Angeles, we offer immigration help to clients throughout the region, including in Carson, Long Beach and Lakewood.