ICE Allegedly Instituting Deportations at Hospitals in Texas

Originally published at the author’s blog.

Immigration lawyer Scott Hicks has reported a disturbing development out of Texas. He advises that clergy from the Mennonite Central Committee in Texas are reporting that on multiple occasions Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is ignoring an October 24, 2011 “Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations” memo, and are now instituting removal proceedings in hospitals. The memo was issued by former ICE Director John Morton and sets forth ICE’s policy regarding enforcement actions by ICE officers and agents at or focused on sensitive locations.

One of the reported “three or four” cases involved undocumented parents from Brownsville who had children transferred to Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. ICE agents allegedly intercepted the parents in between registration and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), also known as an intensive care nursery (ICN), that specializes in the care of ill or premature newborn infants. It has been reported that in each instance ICE did not arrest the parents, but issued a Notice to Appear in immigration court for removal proceedings. These reports, if true, shock the conscience.

The sensitive location policy was designed to ensure that immigration enforcement actions do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals unless exigent circumstances exist, or other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location. The enforcement actions covered by the policy include arrests, interviews, searches, and for purposes of immigration enforcement only surveillance.

The sensitive locations covered include, but are not limited to:

  • Schools (including pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities, and other institutions of learning such as vocational or trade schools);
  • Hospitals;
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services;
  • The site of a funeral, wedding, or other public religious ceremony; and
  • A site during the occurrence of a public demonstration, such as a march, rally or parade.

What is most troubling is that any planned enforcement action at or focused on a sensitive location generally must have prior approval by the Assistant Director of Operations, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Executive Associate Director (EAD) of HSI, the Assistant Director for Field Operations, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), or the EAD of ERO. This includes planned enforcement actions at or focused on a sensitive location that is part of a joint case led by another law enforcement agency.

So the question becomes, is this the work of rogue agents or has authorization been issued all the way from Washington? I will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

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Matthew Kolken is an immigration lawyer and the managing partner of Kolken & Kolken, located in Buffalo, New York. His legal opinions and analysis are regularly solicited by various news sources, including MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, Forbes Magazine, and The Los Angeles Times, among others. You can follow him @mkolken.

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