What to do when someone you know is picked up by ICE

A loved one was picked up by ICE, what do we do now?

First, complete a raid intake form! Use this with the family or community member who has direct knowledge about the raid. Collecting this information helps us learn more about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) practices and patterns as they develop and better prepare communities going forward.

Second, report the raid! Contact your local community organization if you have one and share the intake and information. In New York you can call the Immigrant Defense Projects (IDP) at 212-725-6422.

How do I find them?

If your loved one disappeared, they could be with ICE, the police, in jail, in federal custody or elsewhere, but if it was ICE, they will first be taken to the “Varick Street” facility in Manhattan for processing and then to a jail in New Jersey. Family will often get a call from their loved one a few hours after arrest—families should ask for their A-Number during that call, which begins with an “A” and is followed by eight or nine digits. They should also get their full legal name, date of birth, and country of origin. Once the loved one is transferred to detention, their information will appear in the ICE detainee locator. It may take up to twenty-four hours for the loved one to appear in the locator.

How can I visit them and send them money?

Each jail has different rules. Specific updated information can be found here and on the ICE website, and we also explain how to send messages and money.

How will they get a lawyer?

Most detained people are unrepresented because the U.S. government does not provide a lawyer, even if the person cannot afford one. In New York, some detained noncitizens will be appointed an attorney through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) at their first court date, which is currently about two months after arrest. To find out if a loved one may qualify for NYIFUP, see the Information Sheet on NYIFUP included here.

Important: If you hire a private attorney before the first court date, you will be disqualified from NYIFUP, even if you cannot afford to pay that attorney in the future.

Should we talk to an immigration attorney now?

If a loved one has had any prior contact with an immigration authority, including at the border or having been before an immigration judge, you should consult with an attorney fast. This is because it is important to determine whether the loved one already has a prior order of deportation. If they have an order of deportation, they could be facing a quicker form of deportation and might need immediate attorney intervention (see the Stay of Removal page).

Also, if a loved one is being transferred to a detention facility outside of New York or New Jersey, or if they entered through the visa waiver program (which allows some people to enter the United States lawfully without a visa) they should consult an attorney fast.

How do we know when the first court date will be?

You can find out when and where the court date will be by calling 1-800-898-7180 and putting in the A-Number, but there will be a delay before the information appears in the system. If they never appear in the system, it is possible that your loved one already has prior order of deportation. If your loved one does appear in the system but does not get a court date, check the option in the system where decisions are listed – it may be information about an old order of deportation. In that case, your loved one will not get a court date.

How long will they be detained?

If a loved one qualifies for a way to legally stop the deportation in court, they may be detained for many months and sometimes years, all while fighting their case. Under immigration law, some people qualify for a “bond hearing” within the first few months to try and fight their case from the outside, while other people are not eligible until after 6 months. Even with a “bond hearing” many people will not be granted bond or they may not be able to afford the bond amount set. Families should make financial plans in order to have money ready for bond and support themselves, for a potentially long period of time, without their loved one’s income.

Can we prepare now while waiting for court?

Yes. There are documents that the family can start to collect that may help (see our list). In addition, if the loved one had an ongoing obligation to report (maybe to criminal court to pay a fee, probation, a rehabilitative program, etc.), it is important to let the point of contact for that reporting know that your loved one is detained. This can be a long to do list—and a great way for organizers or community members to support the family through this process.