Warrants & Subpoenas: What to Look Out for and How to Respond

What to Look Out For and How to Respond


The three immigration agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — have, in recent years, used increasingly aggressive tactics to intimidate immigrants and coerce them into cooperating with federal immigration enforcement. Understanding the differences between a subpoena and a warrant — documents that immigration agencies rely on as part of their tactics to coerce cooperation — is critical and enables people to exercise their rights in an informed manner. This fact sheet provides community members and advocates clarification on

  • immigration enforcement power and immigration subpoena power
  • how to distinguish between judicial warrants and subpoenas and their administrative immigration counterparts
  • what to do in response to receiving an immigration warrant or immigration subpoena

This fact sheet also includes a case study about Liberty High School in New York City, highlighting how schools, advocates, and lawyers can intervene to block immigration subpoenas and keep immigrant communities safe.

Download the fact sheet by clicking on the PDF icon, above.


Immigration Enforcement and Subpoena Powers Are Limited by the Fourth Amendment

Key Differences between Judicial Warrants, Immigration Warrants, Judicial Subpoenas, and Immigration Subpoenas

  • Terminology Basics
  • Distinguishing Between a Warrant and a Subpoena Generally
  • Distinguishing Between a Judicial Warrant/Subpoena and an Immigration Warrant/Subpoena

How to Respond if ICE, CBP, or USCIS Comes to Your Door with a “Warrant” or “Subpoena”

CASE STUDY: Liberty High and Lessons Learned in Blocking Immigration Subpoenas

  • Ideally, educators and education advocates would know and exercise their rights under the law
  • What really happened: Educators yielded to the pressure of DHS’s coercive tactics
  • Attorney Lauren Burke’s response: Leverage legal tools and communications to block compliance
  • Lessons learned from Liberty High and over the years since 2010