Immigrant rights advocates hail court ruling against ICE “knock and talk” practice

May 22, 2024 /

In what is considered to be a significant legal victory for immigrants, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the so-called “knock and talk” practice by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is unlawful and unconstitutional. 

“This is a great decision that reinforces the constitutional protections people have in their communities, and that everyone should feel safe in their home regardless of immigration status,” said Stephanie Padilla, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California who worked on the case. Padilla is based in Bakersfield. 

Stephanie Padilla is an ACLU staff attorney based in Bakersfield

Judge Otis D. Wright ruled on May 15 that the tactic of “knock and talk” used by ICE agents in Southern California to arrest people in their homes without a judicial warrant is unconstitutional and ordered ICE to end the practice. ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against ICE on behalf of two community organizations, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the California for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). ACLU claimed ICE used a deceptive practice. Agents would knock on a person’s home pretending to want to talk to someone, but their intent was to arrest the person without a warrant. 

ICE had no immediate comment. 

Bakersfield Certified Immigration Specialist attorney Win Eaton said the “knock and talk” practice is misleading, fraudulent, and coercive. “ICE has regularly announced themselves as police officers when contacting persons at their homes. By doing so, the occupant of a home feels compelled to cooperate with the officer under criminal penalty if they do not do so,” said Eaton. The judge’s order clarifies that while the “knock and talk” practice as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court is constitutional, the practice carried out by ICE was not. The court said that ICE’s practice was more akin to “knock and arrest.” 

 Win Eaton is a Certified Immigration Specialist attorney based in Bakersfield

What’s the impact? 

The order applies to the ICE’s Los Angeles field office that covers Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. “The impact upon ICE in Kern county and elsewhere may require additional litigation to enforce,” said Eaton. 

ACLU requests that if anyone has an episode of ‘knock and talk” with ICE agents to please call the ACLU of Southern California to share their experience. “ If any law enforcement officer shows up at your door, you have the right to not open the door, ask to see a search warrant signed by a judge,” said Padilla.

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Jose Gaspar

José Gaspar is a veteran journalist and former news anchor/reporter with Telemundo, Bakersfield. Prior, he worked 28 years at KBAK-TV as a reporter. Email him at