If you are stopped by an immigration agent in the United States, keep your hands visible at all times and do not run away. Tell them, “I am seeking political asylum.” (Remember to seek asylum only if you fear persecution in your home country based on race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.)
Remain calm; remain silent. Your decision to answer no questions will be interpreted as a refusal to cooperate with the investigation. The agent may then detain you for questioning elsewhere (for example, at their office) and/or detain you until they obtain a warrant for your arrest.
If the immigration officer asks to inspect identification documents, you have the right to show him or her your passport, foreign registration card, or another similar document that establishes your identity if you have it with you. If not, tell the agent that you do not have any documents at this time but are willing to return home without resistance. You are under no obligation to say anything further.
There is one exception, however: “A small number of people stopped by immigration officers on buses leaving the Mexican border area are transferred by Border Patrol agents to local police authorities where they can be charged with ‘warrant of deportation if there is an outstanding warrant for their arrest.” The US Department of Homeland Security states that it is illegal to cross the border without proper documentation.
If you are a non-US citizen, your immigration status will be questioned by an immigration officer if s/he believes you do not have the right to be in the United States or that you are deportable under immigration law. You may also be asked about your travel history and what you were doing before arriving at this port of entry. The US Department of Homeland Security privacy fact sheet states, “You can lawfully depart the United States even though you are in formal removal proceedings, provided you are admissible to the country to which you are returning.” However, if it appears that there is a reason for suspicion before speaking with CBP, tell them only the following, “I would like to speak with an attorney before answering your questions.”
If you are a non-US citizen, you may be detained for further investigation. You may not hear anything further about your case for several weeks or months after the initial contact with CBP.
You have the right to refuse to answer questions posed by immigration officials without legal counsel present. However, if you are unlawfully in the United States and are being investigated regarding removability under section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1227, then your refusal could result in penalties associated with INA section 240(b)(5).
If you are placed under arrest and taken into ICE custody, you will be given a notice of your rights and a form for notifying immediate family members or friends of the arrest. Please note that you have a right to remain silent and no new questions may be asked of you once this decision is made.
If you are not put under arrest, but your biometric information (fingerprints) is taken, the time it takes for your personal information to be checked can take anywhere from 5 minutes up to an hour. The length of time will depend on multiple factors including the number of travelers in the area, location of processing, and availability of secondary inspections and immigration court officials. At times, mandatory detention laws come into play and complicate how quickly we can process individuals who we believe may need further attention before being admitted into our country.
Again, the length of time it takes for this process to complete can vary greatly.
We do not release information on who we detain unless they are charged with a crime and transferred into “criminal custody” through ICE Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO). ERO processes individuals arriving illegally in the United States without proper documentation; investigates cases involving potentially dangerous criminals such as violent gang members, human smugglers, or sex offenders; and provides assistance with removing foreign fugitives from the United States.
We welcome contact with the media and public affairs professionals, but due to operational security reasons, we are unable to accommodate requests for interviews or information about specific cases involving unaccompanied children. If you have a question related to unaccompanied children crossing our borders illegally, please contact UNHCR-International Operations Division Public Affairs at (202) 296-5191. Noncitizens admitted into the United States as refugees are subject to the same laws and penalties as all other noncitizens who commit crimes in this country whether they entered illegally or not.
UNHCR is dedicated to providing access to protection services and carries out a range of activities which support their efforts, including: Ensuring that those who claim refugee status are protected from refoulement (forcible return) where they risk being subjected to persecution, torture, other serious human rights violations, or other threats to life or freedom; Providing refugees with information about how best to protect themselves from criminals preying on vulnerable people as part of the process for determining whether they require international refugee protection; Promoting durable solutions including voluntary repatriation , local integration in countries of first asylum, and resettlement in third countries if it is determined that a person does not have a well-founded fear of persecution under the terms of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, or if it is not possible for a person to return home in safety; Providing protection support services to refugees in countries where UNHCR has a formal agreement with governments, NGOs and other organizations. The activities include legal aid, counseling on sexual violence or exploitation, reporting on human rights violations against this population, reunification with relatives abroad, education through training programs are just some examples of these types of support that UNHCR provides its beneficiaries.
What happens after initial processing?
After you have been processed by CBP officers at an international location you will be transferred back into Border Patrol custody where you will undergo further processing. You will be placed in one of two different holding facilities while your case is being completed. Those who are from Mexico will be taken to the Nogales DeConcini Port of Entry where they may get sent back to their country of origin almost immediately, while others will remain in our custody for further processing. If you have been referred for a credible fear interview by your CBP officer and have been placed under “custody” by ICE ERO officers at this time, you have the option of being transported to a different facility. You may choose one of two facilities: The South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall, Texas, or the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas (located about 35 miles east of San Antonio).
For more information, you may ask or consult with immigration lawyers in Houston.