Homeland Security has expanded its list of locations off-limits for ICE enforcement to include anywhere near graveyards, community organization offices and any area where children “gather” — effectively blocking officers from making arrests across many urban areas.
The new rules issued Wednesday are designed to give illegal immigrants and others associated with them access to essential services without having to fear arrest, said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“This principle is fundamental,” Mr. Mayorkas said in a memo to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We can accomplish our enforcement mission without denying or limiting individuals’ access to needed medical care, children access to their schools, the displaced access to food and shelter, people of faith access to their places of worship, and more.”
ICE has always had a “sensitive locations” policy that put churches, hospitals and schools off-limits for arrests, but the new policy turns that into “protected areas,” and adds massive new sanctuaries to the map where agents and officers are told to stay out when they’re doing immigration enforcement.
Among the new locations are any place children “gather,” with exampled such as playgrounds, daycare facilities and school bus stops. Any social services location is also on the no-go list.
Mr. Mayorkas said even having ICE employees go near those locations “can have the same restraining impact” on someone trying to access a service, so officers need to avoid the area around a playground or school bus stop, not just the specific location itself.
He admitted there was no “bright-line definition” of what near means and said it will be an “exercise of judgment.”
“Our obligation to refrain, to the fullest extent possible, from conducting a law enforcement action in or near a protected area thus applies at all times and is not limited by hours or days of operation,” Mr. Mayorkas wrote.
Mr. Mayorkas said the new rules aren’t an absolute ban, but barring the most severe cases any agent or officer who wants to make an arrest, serve documents or conduct surveillance must get prior approval before entering the no-go zone.
ICE employees said the new rules left few areas in cities that would not qualify as “near” one of the no-go locations, leaving them little room to maneuver.
“It might have been easier for the Biden administration to list locations where immigration enforcement is actually allowed,” said Jon Feere, former chief of staff at ICE. “This is just the latest example of the Biden administration’s effort to dramatically curtail immigration enforcement by any means necessary.”
Immigrant-rights advocates, on the other hand, have long demanded an expanded list of off-limits locations, arguing the presence of ICE scares people in the immigrant community, both those in the U.S. legally and illegally.
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