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What Is Apprehension?

Apprehension is an action that describes the seizing, capturing, or arresting of a person. This often refers to police intervention in a situation where the alleged criminal is captured and taken away by law enforcement.

In the context of immigration, apprehension can refer to any action taken by authorities that aim to identify and limit the freedom of illegally present aliens. This limitation of freedom usually entails arresting or otherwise detaining an illegal alien until they can be processed.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, any individual who encounters agents of the agency at a port of entry or near a physical border of the U.S. may be apprehended, processed, and examined to determine the individual’s identity and immigration status. The apprehension may result in the individual being temporarily held at a nearby border patrol agent or station.

In general, individuals are apprehended in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security enforcement priorities. Most individuals suspected of being illegal migrants will be apprehended under priority 9: Securing borders and modernizing points of entry. 

Key Takeaways

  • Apprehension is the process of seizing, capturing, or otherwise arresting a person and restricting their freedom of movement.
  • For individuals suspected of illegal immigration, apprehension aims to detain them while their identity, citizenship, or right to be in the country are assessed.
  • In order to be considered a valid apprehension, the individual must be taken with a legal warrant and fulfill certain legal requirements for eligibility.
  • If you have been apprehended illegally or have experienced violations of your human rights as a result of your apprehension, an experienced Immigration Law attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

Apprehension, and Immigration Law

Apprehension can be performed by many different agencies in the United States. Most often, these apprehensions are of citizens by citizens. However, something different occurs when it comes to the apprehension of individuals believed to be in the country illegally. 

The main agency that handles the apprehension of individuals believed to be in the country illegally is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Agents of ICE operate in a different space than most law enforcement agencies when it comes to the apprehension of suspects. Because illegal immigrants are not American citizens, many of the protections of American citizens do not apply to suspects who may be pursued by ICE.


However, in order to protect the integrity of suspects and the rights of citizens falsely presumed to be illegally in the country, there are some rules controlling ICE behavior. In order for apprehension to be legal, the target of the apprehension must meet certain validity standards.

In order to satisfy the validity standard for apprehension the suspect must either be:

  1. An individual who should be deported or removed from the country according to immigration law.
  2. An individual who is inadmissible to enter the country under immigration law.

In most cases, the presence of a criminal record either in the home country or in the U.S. will fulfill these requirements. Any active criminal charges will also result in the satisfaction of the apprehension standard. Before an apprehension can be carried out, in most cases an arrest warrant will need to be issued.

The main program guiding ICE decision-making and actions with regard to the apprehension of illegal immigrants is the Criminal Apprehension Program (CAP). Under the CAP, ICE agents are given instructions to identify, arrest, and remove “priority noncitizens” who are serving sentences in federal, state, and local prisons as well as jails. The CAP also prioritizes targeting criminal noncitizens who remain at large.

Bottom Line

If you have been apprehended illegally and are facing deportation, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.

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