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Emergency Preparedness for Possible ICE Action in Your Community

Be prepared, organize, know the rights of all

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is currently charged by the president to detain and deport large numbers of undocumented immigrants. Yet, as a church, we find that too many of those threatened with detention and deportation are good neighbors, with families they are supporting. These resources below are means to help reduce the number of families torn apart by such ICE actions and to work with others in seeking to keep families, especially children and youth, safe.

Undocumented Immigrants, Muslims or others who might be at risk of arrest can find support in learning your rights – rights that you while in the United States, no matter who is president or sheriff. Families with children will find resources to use now to keep children safe in case of detention of a parent.

Churches and other faith communities have the opportunity to stand with those at risk by learning and sharing the resources below.

  • Resources can be printed and made available to neighbors or anyone coming through the door.
  • “Know Your Rights” workshops can be sponsored or co-sponsored. Expert leadership can often been found in partnering with other community organizations.  Such workshops may have the broadest connection to the community if done as part of a coalition or network.
  • Churches and faith communities can be key partners as part of a community network or coalition. Resources below may help to find or build such a group in your community.

Immigrant Safety Plan for Youth and Children:

Alice Karanjah (right) immigrated to the United States from Kenya in 2009. She is here with her 12-year old daughter Ninah on the balcony of their apartment in Tacoma, Washington, where they were resettled with assistance from Tacoma Community House, a mission institution supported by United Methodist Women. Photo by Paul Jeffrey

It is important for families with children to have a plan for emergencies. This is especially important if someone in the family is at risk of deportation. A packet to help families who face potential detainment or deportation of parents with children (with or without status) was developed by in Seattle, Washington to help families prepare for the possibility that someone is detained, for a short period of time, or even deported. While it is not pleasant to think of this possibility, parents and children will be much safer and will have less to worry about should this happen if they are prepared. Churches can encourage and help people to fill these out and decide where to keep copies.

Find and meet with an immigration attorney.  If you or a loved one are at risk of detention by ICE, meet now with an immigration attorney and carry that attorney’s phone number with you at all times if you are at risk of detention. Churches doing significant work with undocumented immigrants should also know an immigration attorney they can contact. Get help finding an attorney. Other community organizations may be good resources for locating an appropriate attorney.

 Organizing a rapid response networkAn example of organizing a coordinated rapid response to ICE Raids by a network of people can be seen The New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia, Sanctuary in the Streets.

Build/Join Coalitions. You cannot do this well alone, not as an individual person and not as a church. Look for a coalition or a network. 


Knowing legal rights that are granted within the United States will allow all of us to better stand for one another’s rights in the process of seeking safety for all. It is particularly useful for immigrants without residency documents to know that they still have certain rights and how to make use of them. Allies, who have legal status in the US, do well to learn this information to better stand in solidarity with those who do not have legal status to be in the US.

The United Methodist Church, through its National Plans for Hispanic/Latino Ministry and Unified National Plan for Strengthening Racial Ministries, has developed “Know Your Rights” handouts for immigrants approached by ICE or the police.

Handout in English  | Folleto en Español

Single page know your rights handouts are available for download from the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. Please share this information with your congregation and community in the appropriate languages.

More languages and other resources are available on the ACLU website.

Excellent videos are provided by CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and provide good training material for anyone at risk, their families, and allies. They are based on real life experience and are multi-ethnic. Immigrants, allies, and anyone else at risk can benefit from the study of these rights.

Wallet cards, Right to Remain Silent.  

Right to Silence, Arabic

These cards are designed to carry in one’s wallet and show to any law enforcement authority, especially ICE, where you want to use your right to remain silent. Whatever language you speak, one side will have English to explain your desire to the officer. Cards are available from the National Immigration Law Center in English and Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Somali, or Farsi.

It can be hard to remain silent before an officer of the law asking you questions, even demanding answers to questions such as “Where were you born?’ The situation is worse if you do not have documents to be in the US. This card provides and easy, clear way to respond: keep silent and pass  the officer this card.

Churches can help by making cards in the appropriate languages in their congregation and neighborhood and making them available.

Know Your Rights Poster 

What if Ice Comes to the Door? Poster in Tagalog

This poster is designed to hang by the door at home, providing a ready guide should ICE come to the door. When you download the page there is also a second page for recording an incident with ICE:

The posters are also great teaching tools, and could be used in a church or community workshop and at home for the whole family to learn appropriate responses. They can serve as a guide for creating a skit and practicing what to do if ICE arrives at the door.