Recent reports of ICE activity nationwide seem to have a troubling pattern:
- In Los Angeles, a man was arrested by ICE agents shortly after taking his
daughter to school.
- In Fairfax County, VA, ICE agents arrested several people shortly after
they left a church homeless shelter.
One woman who was freed from ICE custody for hospital treatment was arrested
again while waiting for surgery—she was later released.
- My own client was arrested by ICE agents while leaving a courthouse in
Union City after she was simply charged with a crime that was later dismissed.
All of these arrests are close to being violations of an Obama era policy
that discouraged ICE raids in “sensitive locations”: churches,
schools, college campuses, courthouses, and hospitals. During the previous
administration, raids taking place at these locations often required a
supervisor’s permission before going forward.
Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, placed some of the blame at the feet
of local law enforcement agencies who have refused to honor ICE requests
to detain prisoners for removal. In a statement she mentioned that while
the sensitive locations policy remains in place, local law enforcement
was putting the public at risk for releasing “individuals…who
have significant criminal histories.”
She also commented that courthouses are an ideal place to make arrests—the
courthouse’s security measures already ensure that people on site
have no weapons.
Randy Capps, a research director at the Migration Policy Institute who
has been monitoring immigration enforcement, warned “If [ICE] can’t
get [undocumented immigrants] at the jails, they have to go out into homes
and public places to find these people.”
In the Tension Between Local & Federal Law Enforcement, Who Loses?
As a result, the fear of deportation has caused undocumented populations
to refrain from leaving their homes for any reason—including sending
their children to school, going to the doctor’s office, or reporting
to court as a witness. Rhode Island representative Jean Philippe Barros
commented on the tension between ICE and law enforcement and its effect
on undocumented immigrants: “The uneasiness comes from the idea
that, what if I take my kids to school or a doctor’s appointment
and I get arrested? Who’s going to take care of the kids?”
In response, lawmakers in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Rhode
Island are trying to pass state laws that prohibit ICE arrests at schools,
churches, hospitals, and courthouses. Barros is one legislator spearheading
the effort to pass such a law in Rhode Island—the bill he proposed
had its first Judiciary Committee hearing last week.
However, the legal weight of such laws is already being questioned. Professor
Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches about immigration law at Cornell Law School,
asserts that only federal legislation could change how ICE operates. Capps
also said that while ICE isn’t likely to start raiding churches
and schools, there’s no law in place that makes it illegal for them
to do so at their discretion. “I don’t know how any state
or locality can stop them from setting up on a public street outside a
church or outside a school,” he said.
Until such a law can be passed in the House or Senate (which isn’t
likely), immigration attorneys remain the primary line of defense between
the undocumented and over-filled detention centers.
If your immigration arrest violated your rights, get in touch with me immediately—call
(800) 909-8129 or contact me online for fast and aggressive removal defense
in New Jersey.