A woman in court, seeking a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend. A 10-year-old girl in an ambulance, being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Men leaving a church “hypothermia shelter,” set up in the winter to keep the homeless from freezing to death.
All of these people have something in common: they were arrested by federal immigration officers last year in public places essential to their basic survival. Yet none of the places in these scenarios fit the government’s definition of a “sensitive location.”
Officially, both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection say they “generally” avoid arrests, interviews or surveillance related to immigration enforcement at “sensitive locations,” which include places of worship, hospitals, schools, weddings, funerals and public demonstrations.
But there are some pretty large exceptions to the policy: Courthouses and workplaces do not have any special protection from immigration enforcement activities. Ambulances pass through immigration checkpoints in border cities. And while certain buildings are considered off limits, nothing keeps agents from intercepting people as they leave. Immigration agents are also allowed to conduct enforcement actions at sensitive locations with approval from a supervisor, or in “exigent circumstances.”
As ICE widens the scope of its enforcement activities under the Trump administration, some lawmakers have been calling for more transparency and oversight concerning where and how ICE conducts operations. On Jan. 18, five House Democrats submitted a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an independent investigation of federal immigration activities near sensitive locations. A spokesperson for ICE said arrests at sensitive locations are “exceedingly rare,” but also said the agency doesn’t keep track of them.
ProPublica and Univision News want to learn more about where ICE and CBP are conducting operations, and how they are affecting you. Has an immigration enforcement action impacted you or someone you know? Have you changed a habit or stopped going somewhere because of ICE or CBP activities? Tell us.
A note about our commitment to your privacy: ProPublica and Univision News are gathering these stories for the purposes of our reporting, and will not voluntarily share your information with third parties without your express permission.