What Is an ICE Check-In and What To Expect
What Is ISAP?
Immigrant detention centers are often crowded and struggling for resources. The ISAP program allows immigrants an alternative to immigrant detention while they’re waiting for important appointments in immigration court. A vital part of the ISAP program is ICE check-ins, which are used to maintain good standing with the program. If you’re required to participate in ICE check-ins, here’s what you need to know.
What Is ICE?
ICE stands for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE officers are immigration officers whose sole purpose is to uphold immigration laws and to make sure that everyone in the United States has documentation allowing them to be within the borders of the country. ICE periodically checks in with immigrants and employers. They may ask for proof of status or proof of someone’s ability to work within the United States.
What Is ISAP?
If you’re in the United States and you have an open case with ICE, you may be a part of ISAP. ISAP is the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. ISAP allows certain immigrants with open cases in immigration court to remain outside of a detention center if they abide by the rules of the program.
All people in the ISAP program will be required to regularly check in with ICE for scheduled appointments. Many participants of the ISAP program are required to wear an ankle monitor device that allows their position and movements to be tracked. This ankle monitor is virtually identical to the monitor used by Americans on house arrest, parole, or supervised probation. It’s a tool that allows people actively involved in a criminal case to avoid being housed in an institution during their case or to have limited freedom as an alternative to incarceration.
What Is an ICE Check-In?
ICE check-ins are appointments for people with pending immigration court cases, as well as those with removal orders, in the United States. They’re most common with asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision. Until that decision is reached, asylees do not have legal status within the United States. This leaves them eligible for deportation at any time after a denial of their asylum application. An active case and ICE check-ins can help people in these groups avoid immigrant detention while their case is still ongoing.
ICE check-ins can be conducted in two ways. It’s not always necessary for someone to appear in person at a meeting with an immigration officer, although they may sometimes receive appointment dates and times for in-person meetings. Some people will receive an electronic device and instructions to use a smartphone app for virtual check-ins with ICE as an alternative to frequent face-to-face appointments.
What Happens During an ICE Check-In?
During an ICE check-in, an ICE officer will ask you questions to verify that you’re complying with the terms of the ISAP program. They need to verify that the address they have on file for you is correct, that you aren’t breaking any laws, and that you don’t pose a security risk to the United States. They also want to make sure that you don’t intend to move away to a place where you may avoid immigration authorities. They will also verify the status of your immigration case.
Your ICE officer will not play any role in making decisions in your immigration case — they won’t collect any information from you regarding your eligibility, and they won’t speak to a judge on your behalf. Their only role is to verify that you’re continuing to comply with the ISAP program.
Are You Required To Attend ICE Check-Ins?
People in the United States on immigrant visas or as green card holders are rarely required to attend ICE check-ins unless there are legal issues with their immigration case or they have a criminal matter that impacts their ability to stay in the U.S.
People with certain non-immigrant visas who have failed to comply with the terms of their visas or have overstayed their visas may be required to attend ICE check-ins. ICE check-ins are only regularly used for people who technically do not yet have an established legal status in the United States or may have lost their legal status in the United States.
If you’re required to attend ICE check-ins, you’ll receive a form called a Notice to Report for ICE Check-Ins. The official title on the paper may say “DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY CALL-IN LETTER.”
The form will tell you the location of the ICE office for a physical check-in, the date and time of your appointment, the reason for your check-in, what to bring, and who to ask for. You may be given a time period instead of a specific date.
For example, you may be required to schedule a check-in within 30 days or 60 days of the date on your notice. You’re responsible for calling to schedule this appointment yourself. ICE will not schedule it for you. Failure to schedule an appointment is the same as missing an appointment and may have similar consequences.
You’ll report at the designated place at the date and appropriate time with whatever documents your call letter requests that you bring. You’ll be asked to speak to an officer and answer a few questions at your check-in.
Border officers may have given you a smartphone, or you may have been required to download an app to your phone. You may receive notifications, alerts, and messages through the app regarding ICE check-ins or your ISAP program status. You’re required to respond to these notifications and attend any meetings, if required. In some cases, you may only be required to use the app for check-ins.
What If You’re Having Trouble Scheduling an ICE Check-In Appointment?
ICE requires you to schedule an in-person appointment or to use the app for virtual check-ins. If the app isn’t working, you’ll need to contact ICE. You’ll also need to contact them to schedule an appointment. All issues must be resolved directly with ICE.
The easiest way to schedule an appointment with ICE is to use their website. They allow you to request appointments according to their availability. You’re the least likely to encounter issues with their online system. If you don’t have reliable internet access or if the website isn’t working correctly, you also have the option of calling ICE or using the app.
ICE is often very busy, and it isn’t unusual that they may not be able to handle your call the first time you attempt to contact them. You may need to leave a message with your name, phone number, and reason for calling. They will get back to you with further information about scheduling an appointment or helping you with your mobile app.
If they don’t get back to you right away, call them every day. Keep a record of your attempts to reach them. If your calls slip through the cracks and you’re unable to schedule an appointment in a timely manner, you’ll have proof of your attempts to seek assistance with the mobile app or to reach an ICE agent for an appointment.
What If You Need To Reschedule Your ICE Check-In Appointment?
If you need to reschedule your appointment with ICE, either to change the date and time or to switch to a closer ICE Field Office, ICE encourages you to use their online scheduling tool to move your appointment. They also have a field office locator tool that will help you find the office closest to you if you’ve relocated.
If you’ve moved, you’re required to report a change of address within five business days (weekdays, excluding national holidays) to all relevant immigration institutions. If you haven’t already updated your address, you need to do so before requesting to reschedule your appointment or move its location.
What Happens If You Miss an ICE Check-In?
If you miss an ICE check-in, ICE may defer you from the ISAP program and place you in a detention center. You’ll remain in a detention center until the conclusion of your case in immigration court, which may mean the date you’re deported from the United States.
If you believe you may miss an ICE check-in due to a situation out of your control (like extreme illness or a serious accident), it’s important to notify ICE as soon as possible or to have a trusted person notify ICE on your behalf if you are indisposed and unable to do so yourself.
If you have already missed your ICE check-in, speak to an immigration attorney immediately. The situation is urgent, and it’s best to proceed with legal assistance. It may not always be possible to avoid detention or deportation, but it’s significantly harder to attempt to resolve the situation without competent legal help.
Can ICE Detain You at a Check-In?
Some people may be afraid to attend an ICE check-in because they fear that ICE will detain them when they arrive. The entire purpose of the ISAP program is to avoid detaining people and to alleviate some of the stress on the immigrant detention system. ICE does not want to hold you in custody, and they will avoid doing so unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The best way to avoid immigrant detention is to follow ICE’s instructions, keep your address on file current, and attend all of your check-ins. You should always respond every time ICE attempts to contact you. If you’re abiding by the rules of the ISAP program and showing up on time for your check-ins, they have absolutely no reason or desire to detain you.
Detention should only be a concern for people who haven’t abided by the instructions they were given. If you missed an appointment without rescheduling or contacting ICE, if you’ve failed to update your address, or if you’ve been charged with a crime, ICE may detain you. If this happens, contact an experienced immigration attorney for further instructions.
You’re afforded the right to contact an attorney even after you’ve been detained, but it’s best to contact an attorney if you’re concerned that you may be detained.
What Can You Do If You’re Detained by ICE?
If ICE detains you, ask to speak to your lawyer immediately. You do not need to answer any questions that may place yourself or your court case in jeopardy. It’s an ICE officer’s job to ask you questions and attempt to act in the government’s best interest. Even if they seem friendly, they do not have your best interest in mind, and it isn’t their job to help you.
ICE officers may attempt to get you to speak to them without an attorney, but you don’t have to reply. You can simply say, “I respectfully decline to comment, and I would like to speak with my attorney.” You’re allowed private consultation with your attorney, who can navigate the situation with ICE on your behalf.
How Long Will You Need To Attend ICE Check-Ins?
You’ll attend ICE check-ins until your case is reviewed and decided in immigration court. An immigration judge will decide if you should be allowed to remain in the United States. You may successfully obtain refugee status, asylum status, or temporary protected status that will allow you to stay. If the case is not decided in your favor, you may be removed from the United States and banned from re-entry for a designated period of time.
It’s crucial to have a lawyer when you have an active case in immigration court. Removal proceedings and other immigration law processes can take a long time to complete, but you shouldn’t wait until your court date approaches to hire an attorney. The earlier you hire an attorney, the more avenues you will be able to pursue for your case.
Do You Need Legal Help With ICE Check-Ins or Immigration Court?
Immigration court is very difficult to navigate without an attorney. The experienced immigration law team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades may be able to help. Contact us for a consultation regarding your immigration case. Time is of the essence if you may be facing detention or deportation.