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Are Immigration Checkpoints Legal?


There are over 40 million immigrants in the United States. Being an undocumented immigrant in the United States comes with a fear of being deported for many. There are many instances where deportation officers will either show up to immigrants’ homes, conduct checkpoints on the road to verify the status of immigrants, or even pull immigrants over either in their private vehicle or on different forms of public transportation such as trains and buses. It is essential to understand when an immigration officer is allowed to question you as well as what to do if a deportation officer does pull you over and question you . This all depends on the immigration status you have in the United States as well as why you are being stopped.

In 2018, 396,448 people were booked into ICE custody, 242,778 of them were detained by CBP, and 153,670 by ICE. Being questioned by an immigration officer is a real threat which is why it is very important to know what to do if any deportation officer stops you. arch for people without immigration documentation within a “reasonable distance” from any boundary of the United States. The “reasonable distance” is set to 100 miles of any boundary which doesn’t seem like much, but over 66% of the country lives within this “reasonable distance”. It is important to note that the entire state of Florida falls within CBP’s 100-mile jurisdiction. If an individual lives outside of those 100 miles CBP doesn’t have jurisdiction, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for the immigration laws in that region.

In 2018, 396,448 people were booked into ICE custody, 242,778 of them were detained by CBP and 153,670 by ICE. Being questioned by an immigration officer is a real threat which is why it is very important to know what to do if any deportation officer stops you.

The first thing to know is the fact that no matter what status you hold, you have the right to remain silent and let the officer know you don’t want to answer any questions without an attorney present. This is important because a lot of people become flustered and answer questions they don’t need to. An immigration officer doesn’t have the right to detain you without “reasonable suspicion” which would be any facts about the individual that would indicate that they are in violation of immigration law or federal law. They aren’t allowed to search your belongings either and if they search or detain anyone without “probable cause” they are breaking the law. An individual’s silence does not qualify as “probable cause” and it is important to know your rights and to keep calm.

A United States citizen doesn’t need to carry documents to prove their status. If an individual isn’t a citizen, but is over the age of 18 and has a valid immigration status, then they are required by law to provide the documentation proving their status. These documents include a permanent resident card for United States residents, or immigration receipts indicating the status of that immigrant for Visa holders. If an individual can’t provide them, they may be arrested. If you do not have documents showing your legal status, it is important to never provide false documents to an immigration officer! People who have entered the United States without inspection by an immigration official may be subject to “expedited removal” from the United States. “Expedited removal” applies to individuals who have entered the United States within a 14-day period and have not been inspected. They also need to be within the 100-mile border, but if an individual meets this criteria, they are subject to “expedited removal”. If an individual has an instilled fear of going back to their country, they immediately need to tell the immigration officer because they may be able to apply for asylum.

Encounters with any immigration officials or law enforcement in general can be frightening. It is important to stay calm and understand what to do because every case is different.

Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of Elizee Law Firm, an immigration and family law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. She can be reached at Ph: 305-371-8846