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How does a person encounter ICE?

There are multiple agencies involved in any single immigration case. Among those agencies is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known by its short acronym – “ICE.” Like its name suggests, this agency is in charge of enforcing immigration laws in the U.S. and is part of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

People may encounter ICE in different ways. For example, a person may be apprehended by local police, placed on an ICE hold, prosecuted for a state crime, sentenced, and upon completion of the sentence period, taken into ICE’s custody.

Other people may encounter ICE in other less common but possible ways.

An example of an unusual way to encounter ICE is when a person receives an unexpected letter in the mail. This letter is titled, “Call-in Letter,” and the form number for the letter is “DHS Form G-56.” People that could receive this type of DHS letter include: people who have lived in the U.S. for decades without status, people who are given probation for a criminal conviction, people who have been deported in the past and came back to the U.S. without inspection, people who entered the U.S. without inspection, people with pending USCIS applications but without status, and the list goes on.

What is a Call-in Letter, DHS Form G-56?

A G-56 Call-in Letter contains several key items. First, the letter contains the name of the person whom the letter is addressed to and that person’s full address. Second, the letter contains a short sentence instructing the person to report to a specific ICE Field Office at a certain date and time. And lastly, the letter also contains the type of documents the person needs to take to the appointment and the reason for the appointment.

However, the reason for the appointment as stated on the letter can oftentimes be vague. For example, ICE may state that the reason for the appointment is to conduct a “case review.” A vague reason statement can leave the person scared and wondering whether ICE intends to detain them or deport them. It is even more puzzling and alarming if the person receiving the letter has lived in the U.S. without status for many years and without a prior ICE encounter.

What to do if you receive a DHS Call-in Letter from ICE

Nevertheless, it is important to not ignore these types of letters. If you receive a Call-in Letter, the best thing to do is to seek immediate legal advice from an immigration attorney. Remember that every case is different and requires individualized consideration.

An attorney can help assess your full immigration history and narrow down the specific reasons for the ICE appointment. More importantly, an attorney can help you strategize possible defenses, inform you about what to expect from ICE, draft and compile all documents you should take to your appointment, and provide legal representation during your actual appointment.

But even if you do not hire an attorney, it is important that you attend your appointment on your scheduled date and time as instructed. Failing to do so may be detrimental to your overall immigration relief eligibility. 

How can I prepare for my ICE Call-in Letter appointment?

Every ICE Field Office has its own internal policies and procedures. Generally, you want to make sure that you plan your trip in advance. Before your appointment, you should familiarize yourself with the ICE office building and know where to park.

Have all your documents ready the night before your appointment and make a copy of your Call-in Letter to show security. You should also keep a copy of the letter for your records. If you are not represented by an attorney, be sure to pack some pen and paper so you can take notes of any instructions you may be given during your appointment.

On the day of your appointment, plan to arrive at the ICE office at least 1 hour or 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Keep in mind that there may be a long line of people waiting outside the entrance if the ICE office allows only a certain amount of people inside their building at a time.

Therefore, be prepared to wait for a couple of hours before you are called in by the ICE officer in charge of your case. Avoid having your cellphone with you if possible. If you must have your cellphone with you, then be sure to turn it off before you enter the building. Note that most ICE offices have a strict “no cell-phone use” policy while inside their building.

A security guard will usually greet you at the entrance to ask about the reason for your visit. This is when you should show your Call-in Letter. Once inside, you will have to go through security and await further instructions as to whether you can check-in at a window or wait at a certain line for the ICE officer to call you.

Even if these securities or ICE officers are cordial and friendly, you must remember that they are not your immigration attorney nor positioned to provide you with legal advice.  

Lastly, be aware of all the possible outcomes of your appointment and plan accordingly. If you believe that ICE may have a reason to deport you, you should consult with an immigration attorney well in advance of your appointment to learn more about all the possible outcomes of your case.

How can the Powers Law Group help?

If you receive DHS Form G-56, Call-in Letter, and would like to know more about how we can assist you, contact our office to schedule a consultation. Our experienced immigration lawyers are ready to help you at their offices in the Houston and Woodlands area or remotely in all 50 states.


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