Immigration And Criminal Defense Lawyers

“Knock-and-talk” visits by ICE agents ruled unconstitutional

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2024 | Immigration Law |

If you’re an immigrant to this country, an unexpected visit by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can be frightening – even if all of your documentation is current and valid. Part of that fear can be caused by not fully knowing what rights you have – if any. 

Unfortunately, some agents take advantage of that fear and uncertainty to do things that violate people’s rights. One of these tactics involves a “knock and talk.” That’s when agents come to someone’s home, seemingly just to talk, often early in the morning. These visits often end with someone being arrested – generally for being in the country illegally. In fact, about 8% of ICE arrests in this area during 2022 were made during knock-and-talk visits.

The class-action suit behind the ruling

In 2020, two immigrant advocacy groups brought a class-action suit against ICE. They argued that this tactic was a violation of people’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. In many cases, according to the plaintiffs, agents misrepresented themselves as police or probation officers.

A federal judge recently ruled against ICE – agreeing with the plaintiffs that the knock-and-talk tactic is unconstitutional because agents typically have only an administrative arrest warrant as opposed to a judicial warrant. This ruling applies only to the Los Angeles ICE field office. However, that office covers counties as far north as San Luis Obispo in addition to Orange, Riverside and San Bernadino as well as, of course, LA County.

The judge noted that the fact that the true reason for these visits is typically misrepresented was a factor in his decision. He said that the reason “is to make an immigration arrest” and that a “more accurate” title for them is “knock and arrests.” 

One immigrant rights advocate called the ruling “a good first step towards justice.” She added that it “won’t undo the years of harm done by ICE.”

These knock-and-talk visits are not unique to Southern California – or the state as a whole. Similar tactics are used across the country to arrest people who are allegedly in the country without proper documentation in violation of their constitutional rights — and, some argue, in violation of their human rights. If a loved one has been arrested or detained by ICE agents or other law enforcement personnel, having experienced legal guidance will help protect those rights.