The immigration climate in the United States has been volatile lately, and you may be among the many who live in fear about your future in this country. As laws change and the enforcement of those laws grows more rigid, you may feel some days like the walls are closing in around you and you have nowhere to turn to avoid deportation.
If removal from the country is a primary concern of yours, you may be considering your alternatives. Perhaps you have heard through the media that some are seeking sanctuary in local churches because agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot reach them there. Before you choose this step for avoiding removal, you should learn the facts and obtain reliable information about your options.
Is it worth the risk?
Churches, among other places, are on the list of sensitive locations. Other sensitive locations include schools, daycares, college campuses and hospitals. ICE agents also avoid interfering with public demonstrations such as parades or rallies, and they generally do not intrude on ceremonies like weddings and funerals. While ICE's policy is not to violate those sensitive locations to question or arrest immigrants they seek, no law prevents them from doing so under certain circumstances, such as these:
- You are in a sensitive location where another law enforcement action is taking place. For example, if police enter the building to arrest someone for a felony charge, ICE agents may carry out enforcement against you.
- ICE agents believe you are a threat to national security, for example, if you are under suspicion for terrorist activities.
- ICE agents believe you pose a risk of harm or violence to the property, other people, or yourself.
- ICE agents fear your sanctuary in a sensitive location may place criminal evidence at risk of destruction.
Agents may also enter and take action in a sensitive location when none of these factors exists as long as immigration officials authorize the action. In addition, it is important to know that courthouses are not on the list of sensitive locations.
While agents prefer not to violate sensitive locations, a New Jersey church may not protect you from removal or arrest as much as you think. In addition, you may place the leaders of the church in the delicate position of breaking the law to abet you. A safer alternative may be seeking the guidance and experience of an attorney who understands your rights and can assist you in navigating the complexities of the immigration system.