ICE agent questions Decatur resident in drivewayPhoto illustration obtained via https://www.ice.gov/
This story has been updated.
A Decatur resident said they were stopped by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in the driveway of their home Tuesday morning.
The resident, who is white, a U.S. citizen and was born in this country, asked not to be identified.
The agent, who was in an unmarked SUV with tinted windows, stopped at the entrance of the driveway and began asking the resident questions. The SUV blocked the resident from leaving to go to work. The agent showed a photo of a man from El Salvador and asked if the resident had seen him living at a neighbor’s house.
The resident said they had not seen the man, and asked if he was a threat to the community. The ICE agent said no. The resident said they were not sure if other neighbors had been contacted.
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox said the incident the resident described was not unusual.
“ICE is a law enforcement agency – in fact, ICE is second only to the FBI in size within federal law enforcement, and ICE actually has the broadest law-enforcement authority of any federal agency with authority over more than 400 federal criminal statutes,” Cox said. “While everyone defaults to assuming ICE means immigration enforcement these days, ICE does much, much more. In the course of investigations a variety of methods may be used to include speaking with people who may have information – just as every law enforcement agency does.”
He added, “in general the scenario you are describing is a standard law enforcement practice and would not be anything new to ICE or any other law enforcement agency.”
Immigration attorney Sarah Owings said she had never heard of a neighbor being questioned by ICE about another neighbor, calling it, “troubling, but not surprising.”
“It would not be outside of the realm of possibility,” she said.
Owings said ICE does not have jurisdiction over U.S. citizens and they are not obligated to answer questions from ICE agents.
“If you’re not being detained, you don’t have to answer any questions,” she said. “Ask if you’re being detained and if you’re not being detained, ask if you’re free to go.”
She also advised to ask if the agent has a warrant.
If the agent does not leave, she said the next step is to call an attorney.
“Don’t escalate it,” Owings said. “There’s no reason to escalate it. You’re not obligated to give them any information. You do not need to provide them any additional details.”
Immigration attorney Charles Kuck said the interview was standard procedure for any kind of police officer, but said the agent should not have blocked the resident’s driveway.
“That’s illegal. They’re not allowed to do that,” he said. “No police officer does that, because you impede somebody leaving. They’re not under arrest. That was an abuse of their authority.”
He said police officers investigating crimes are allowed to ask random people questions, but people do not have to answer them.
Kuck said people should expect to see more ICE agents conducting these kinds of interviews.
“You’re going to see a lot more of this,” he said. “ICE is going to be everywhere.”