On October 27, 2021 Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas issued a new comprehensive memorandum, Guidelines for Enforcement Actions in or Near Protected Areas, to provide guidance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on immigration enforcement actions (e.g., arrests, surveillance, and interviews) in or near certain protected places.
— ICE (@ICEgov) December 31, 2021
What are protected areas?
The new guidance replaces the previous “sensitive” locations guidance, which delineated locations or specific places that federal enforcement agencies should avoid when conducting immigration enforcement actions.
The sensitive locations guidance include places of worship, schools, hospitals, sites of religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations. The new guidance extends protections to include numerous social service locations including, but not limited to:
- domestic violence shelters
- homeless shelters
- food banks
- counseling facilities
- community-based organizations
- disaster/crisis response centers
The guidance also expands the definition of previously labeled locations such as schools and hospitals to include “a place where children gather” (e.g., playgrounds, childcare centers, school bus stops) and “a medical or mental healthcare facility” (e.g., Covid vaccine or testing sites, health clinics, locations which service pregnant individuals). The expanded guidance continues to include the previously mentioned spaces, i.e., places religious worship, funeral service locations, and public demonstrations.
DHS does list several limited circumstances in which enforcement may take place in protected locations: during a hot pursuit or where there is imminent risk. However, because of the nature of the essential services and activities that occur at these protected locations individuals are, “generally protected from enforcement actions by ICE and CBP.”
Why is the new guidance important?
This updated guidance is a welcome first step to limiting enforcement actions in locations where individuals are participating in activities vital to their personal and communal health and well-being. It would be detrimental to the enforcement of public safety and would disrupt community well-being if enforcement actions continue to take place in these spaces, which is the primary charge of duty presented to DHS. If immigration enforcement occurs in these protected locations, non-citizens community members, including children, may hesitate or avoid seeking urgent or necessary social services. These protected areas are vital to the social and physical well-being of documented, non-citizen, and undocumented individuals and families across the U.S. who should have an equal opportunity to safely convene in these community spaces.
What comes next?
Inherent to our commitment to welcome and safety for vulnerable groups, we must care for our neighbors and safeguard the right for every individual to practice their faith, receive an education, access healthcare, and access food and shelter without fear. LIRS supports these new DHS guidelines, believing it is essential that the successful implementation of Secretary Mayorkas’ memorandum be watched closely on the ground, in real-time, within our communities. It is important that we continue to urge DHS to move quickly to implement and inform immigration officers about this updated policy to ensure safety for communities across the U.S.