Since President Trump took office in 2017, he has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been taking tougher action to find and remove undocumented immigrants from the country. For the millions of undocumented immigrants who have made the U.S. their home, this change has created an atmosphere of fear.
One way in which this situation creates increased uncertainty is the fact that ICE does not make public its changing operational tactics. Thus, it is difficult for immigrants to discern which types of communication from alleged ICE officials is legitimate and which is fraudulent.
Previously, it was commonly understood that ICE officials did not contact individuals via text—particularly if there had been no prior attempted communication. Lately, however, there have been reports of ICE agents texting undocumented immigrants, trying to compel them to meet in a certain location—which may be outside of an official ICE office. In some cases, these texts even link to non-government affiliated websites.
At first glance, one might assume that such texts are nothing more than scams. However, when immigrants have reported such instances to their attorneys, the attorneys have often verified that the texts in fact originate from ICE.
How do you distinguish real from fraudulent ICE communication?
A spokesperson for ICE suggested anonymously calling the ICE tip line (1-866-DHS-2-ICE) if an immigrant is uncertain of the legitimacy of alleged ICE communication. However, immigration attorneys strongly encourage immigrants to call their lawyer immediately rather than contacting ICE at all. The concern is that this new scare tactic is an effort by the current administration to get fearful immigrants without a clear understanding of their rights to turn themselves in—even though they may be protected under the law.