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Federal judge prohibits warrantless “knock and talk” ICE visits

On Behalf of | May 26, 2024 | immigration |

The thought of law enforcement personnel showing up at your door unannounced can be unsettling to anyone. However, for immigrants to this country (whether they’re here legally or not), it can be especially frightening. Often, they aren’t certain of what, if any, rights they have.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had been using a tactic often called “knock and talk.” They would show up at someone’s door without a warrant and often end up arresting them. Some 8% of ICE arrests in this region followed “knock and talk” visits in 2022.

A federal judge ruled this month that this practice is unconstitutional. It is now prohibited for agents in the Los Angeles ICE field office. This office also covers counties northward as far as San Luis Obispo as well as Orange, San Bernadino and Riverside counties. This practice isn’t unique to California, however. It occurs across the country.

The class action case dates back to 2020

The ruling was in a class-action suit brought in 2020 by two immigrant advocacy groups. They argued that agents counted on immigrants to open their doors to them and let them in. In many cases, according to the plaintiffs, agents claimed to be police officers.

In his ruling, the judge wrote, “Despite often stating a different purpose for their visit, the true ‘intent’ and ‘actual purpose’ behind a ‘knock and talk’ is to make an immigration arrest.” He said that the “more accurate title” for these knock and talk visits “would be ‘knock and arrests.’”

The judge noted that ICE’s contention that its agents could legally go onto people’s private property without a warrant would apply if the purpose was only to talk to people. However, that’s typically not the intent.

Feeling safe in your home is a “basic human right for immigrants”

One immigrant rights advocate said the ruling “won’t undo the years of harm done by ICE, but it is a good first step towards justice.” She added, “It is a basic human right for immigrants to feel safe in their own homes and live without fear.”

If you believe that a loved one has been wrongfully arrested or detained by ICE agents or other law enforcement personnel, it’s crucial to get experienced legal guidance to help protect their rights.