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.