A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New ICE Policy re: Enforcement Actions on Schools, Churches & Other Sensitive Locations

A new immigrant policy is being implemented to limit enforcement actions (e.g., arrests, interviews, searches) at or near sensitive locations such as schools and churches unless they are justified by exigent circumstances or other law enforcement actions leading to a sensitive location, and such actions must be pre-approved by a supervisor, according to a recent memo issued by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Director on 10/24/2012.
The enforcement  actions covered by the new policy include ( I) arrests, (2) interviews, (3) searches, and (4)  immigration enforcement related surveillance.  Actions that are not covered by this policy include "obtaining records, documents and similar materials from officials or employees, providing notice to officials or employees, serving subpoenas, engaging in Student and  Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) compliance and  certification visits,  or participating in official functions or community meetings."
Sensitive locations covered include schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services, sites of funeral, wedding, or other public religious ceremony; and also sites being used for public demonstration, such as a march, rally or parade.
The memo also reminds ICE employees to exercise caution and use particular care when dealing with organizations that assist children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with significant mental or physical disabilities.
Venues such as churches and hospitals are traditionally considered sanctuaries for immigrants.  Recently, a church in Highland Park, NJ, became the center of much attention for assisting and sheltering a group of Indonesian asylum seekers in its facilities. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/nyregion/reformed-church-gives-sanctuary-to-indonesians-ordered-to-be-deported.html?smid=fb-share ) This new policy provides specific guidelines for ICE officials to follow when handling situations that involve these sensitive locations.

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