An ICE Home Raid Explainer

Raids have obvious emotional effects, but also broader consequences.

April 6, 2013, 11:56 AM

April 10, 2013— -- Home raids are a powerful tactic used by federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration law, where agents round up individuals with deportation orders and find additional undocumented immigrants who may otherwise fit the agency's criteria for deportation.

The raids were at the center of a class-action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that challenged a series of aggressive raids which took place in 2006 and 2007. A federal judge approved a settlement in the case last week.

Entering without a warrant or consent was a key issue in the lawsuit. The New York Times report on the settlement described agents who "barged" inside homes and -- in at least one instance -- with guns drawn.

So, what exactly is a raid? What purpose does it serve? And what comes out of it? Here are some answers:

What exactly is a home raid?

A raid is an enforcement tactic ICE uses to confront immigrants who have an outstanding deportation orders. Additionally, it is used to find other immigrants who may be in the country illegally.

ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program carries out raids through a specialized team. In a home raid, these agents, armed and in uniform, will surround a home -- likely during early morning hours -- and bang on doors ordering occupants to open up. Raids, by their nature, use the elements of surprise, intimidation and shock to catch people off guard and create chaos, writes immigration attorney Josie Gonzalez (PDF).

In some cases, immigration authorities may have their guns drawn, but that depends on the perceived risk or danger involved in apprehending a suspect. Some examples of such a scenario would be if the suspect is a known gang member or if agents know there are firearms in the home.

Generally, agents have a court-issued warrant to enter a home. But even without one, agents may enter a home upon receiving consent from the person at the door. Once inside, agents corral occupants for questioning.

Agents aren't limited to arresting their initial targets. Based on information provided by people in the raided homes, agents can make additional arrests. People who admit to being in the country illegally are taken into custody along with others.

What happens to people in the home?

Following arrests and within the span of a few days, arrested immigrants could be deported or "removed." Immigrants who sign voluntary removal forms could be on a bus to the border a few short hours from the time of the raid.

"Many people don't know they have a right to an immigration hearing," said Gloria Curiel, an attorney based in Los Angeles. "Individuals who have no history of criminal activity or the crime was maybe an unpaid ticket -- something minor, should ... not be automatically deported."

Fugitive Operations, the section of ICE responsible for raids, has billed itself as an operation to target the most threatening criminals and terrorist suspects. The reality is that nearly three-quarters of those apprehended had no criminal convictions (PDF).

How do raids impact people who get raided?

Children are among the most impacted by raids. ICE does not protect families at the time of apprehension, according to "Shattered Families," a report by the Applied Research Center. Arresting officers often don't allow parents to make arrangements for their children.

There are also risks of psychological trauma for children, a report by National Council of La Raza found:

Separation from arrested parents caused emotional trauma in some children, especially because it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. The trauma of separation was greater when it continued for an extended period of time. Community-wide fear and social isolation accentuated the psychological impact on children.

What do raids accomplish?

ICE maintains that public safety is its primary concern. It focuses on serious criminals, those with recent immigration violations, repeat offenders and immigration fugitives, and those with outstanding deportation orders.

In 2012, Fugitive Operations made more than 37,000 arrests that contributed to an agency-wide total of 409,000 deportations. The number of fugitive cases dropped by 10,616 to 469,157 in total.

Critics, however, see the mounting deportations as a way for the agency to meet alleged removal quotas, and question the financial and emotional toll that comes with tracking down and removing undocumented immigrants.