JACKSON, WY— Trefonas Law PC and Teton County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, ICE, was in town through this morning and has detained at least three people since last night.
Elizabeth Trefonas, owner and founder of Trefonas Law, says she sees ICE in town frequently. Back in November, as a panelist for “The Quiet Force,” a locally-produced film about the immigrant workforce in ski towns, Trefonas told a surprised audience that she expects to hear from ICE about every other month. What worries her the most isn’t necessarily the presence of ICE in Jackson. That’s nothing new.
Instead, what worries her is how ICE agents present themselves— or doesn’t — when they’re in town. Trefonas wants to make sure people know what rights they have if confronted with an ICE agent.
“A majority of [ICE] encounters are really surreptitious,” Trefonas says.
Regardless of where people stand on immigration,”you should at least be aware of it,” she says.
Here are the facts: ICE is going to keep coming to town. They will continue to detain people they believe are here without proper documentation. The frequency of their visits might not increase, but the scope of people they will detain is larger, thanks to White House executive order from January 2017 that allows ICE to seek out anyone who has been charged—not just convicted—of a crime, or who law enforcement deems might be a risk.
But most of us won’t even know they’re here. They often show up in plain clothes and unmarked cars, Trefonas said. If they’re looking for someone at work, they won’t always identify themselves as ICE agents. They’ll just ask to speak to whoever they’re looking for, and Trefonas says Jacksonites are often too polite to ask questions.
None of this is against the law, and indeed, ICE is just doing its job. What is unlawful, however, is the way agents detain people. Trefonas says ICE agents will often present a warrant when asked, but unless it’s signed by a judge, “it’s a wish list, not a warrant.” A warrant just signed by an officer, Trefonas says, isn’t enough.
If ICE agents don’t have a valid warrant, it’s within your right to say “I don’t consent to this, am I free to leave?” and walk away.
Trefonas is a wealth of information, but there are also plenty of resources available online. The American Civil Liberties Union — ACLU — has a cartoon/video series called “Know Your Rights” that outlines exactly what you can’t (and can’t) do if ICE shows up at your door.
This applies to coworkers, too, “ICE is just like any other local law enforcement,” Trefonas says. “Unless they have a real warrant, they don’t have to be there. If someone’s asking for someone, and you don’t know who you’re talking to, don’t be polite.”
You also don’t have to show them employment records unless they have a warrant.
If someone you know has been detained, you can try to find them at Locator.ice.gov. You have to know their name, their date of birth, and their country of origin.
Trefonas says no matter how you feel about immigration and ICE, everyone should be aware of their rights. And more importantly, she says, Jackson should strive to be kind to their neighbors.
“A majority of my clients have lived here longer than I have. Who am I to say that they’re the ‘guest?’” Trefonas says. “Your neighbor you’ve loved for ever is so frightened this morning because ICE is here.”