Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a long history of enforcement actions in places people can’t avoid, like official appointments and court dates, even though it also has a policy against carrying out those actions at “sensitive locations,” such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Memorandum from John Morton to Field Office Directors, Special Agents in Charge, and Chief Counsel re: Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations, October 24, 2011. For an example of ways the sensitive locations policies have been avoided, see American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, “ACLU Condemns ICE For “Bait-and-Switch” Courthouse Policy,” press release (Los Angeles: ACLU of Southern California, February 10, 2014). This year saw ICE treading close to—if not over—the line of that policy, as well as conducting more actions far from the borders, with a 10 percent increase over 2017 in detentions based on ICE apprehensions in the interior of the country.ICE, “ERO FY 18 by the Numbers,”
Fear of deportation may keep immigrants—those who entered the country as legal residents or visa holders, as well as those who entered without inspection—from obtaining necessary services like medical care, food, and shelter. In October, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a proposed rule that would drastically affect immigrants’ eligibility for admission to the country if they use or will potentially require social services such as food assistance, Medicaid, housing assistance, or unemployment or disability benefits.U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 83 Fed. Reg. 51114 (proposed October 10, 2018) (to be codified at 8 CFR 103, 8 CFR 212 to 214, 8 CFR 248). The rule states that people who want to enter or remain in the country must “establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge . . . [and] that they are not using or receiving, nor likely to use or receive, public benefits.”U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, 83 Fed. Reg. 51114 (proposed October 10, 2018) (to be codified at 8 CFR 103, 8 CFR 212 to 214, 8 CFR 248). The Migration Policy Institute estimated in June that there are 3.8 million naturalized citizen or non-citizen Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 10.3 million similarly situated Latino people, who are in families receiving assistance.Jeanne Batalova, Michael Fix, and Mark Greenberg, Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families’ Public Benefits Use(Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2018), 5. According to Michelle Garcia, a community organizer for the Chicago-based disability advocacy organization Access Living, the rule is already having a chilling effect on her Latino clients, who have reported that they feel unsafe seeking care for their children—who are American citizens with disabilities—because it could lead to their own deportation.Michelle R. Davis, “Trump Administration Seeks to Bar Immigrants with Disabilities,” Disability Scoop, April 30, 2018. Commentary closed on the proposed rule on December 10 with more than 200,000 comments from the public.USCIS, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 2018.
Activists are concerned that besides targeting those seeking services, ICE may be coming for them personally. In December 2017, ICE issued warnings to Maru Mora-Villalpando, a Washington State activist, to appear and face deportation proceedings in June 2018.Lynsi Burton, “'We Will Win': Seattle-Area Immigrant Activist Sees Hope in Her Deportation Case,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 26, 2018. Although ICE’s stated position is that it “does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make,” the charging document says that “[i]t should . . . be noted that [Mora-Villalpando] has extensive involvement with anti-ICE protests and Latino advocacy programs.”John Burnett, “Immigration Advocates Warn ICE Is Retaliating for Activism,” NPR, March 16, 2018. Zully Palacios Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Migrant Justice and one of the activists targeted by ICE, has noted that “to go against us is a way to intimidate the community."John Burnett, “Immigration Advocates Warn ICE Is Retaliating for Activism,” NPR, March 16, 2018. Migrant Justice has filed a lawsuit alleging that ICE engaged in a deliberate campaign to infiltrate the organization, and that the March apprehension of Palacios Rodriguez and fellow leader Jose Enrique Balcazar-Sanchez was a retaliatory enforcement designed to silence them.For the apprehension of Migrant Justice leaders, see Jack Herrera, “Is ICE Targeting Activists?” Pacific Standard, December 3, 2018. For the lawsuit, see Migrant Justice v. Nielsen, No. 5:18-cv-192 (D. Vt., November 14, 2018). And New York City activist Ravidath Ragbir’s January arrest, which drew national attention, was the second apprehension of a leader of New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City—an interfaith network of congregations, organizations, and individuals in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation—in the space of a week.Nick Pinto, “No Sanctuary,” The Intercept, January 19, 2018.