Mayorkas carves out sweeping range of 'protected areas' off-limits to immigration enforcement

Biden DHS secretary previously ordered ICE to cease arresting those who entered the U.S. illegally on the basis of that offense alone, despite statutory law defining the offense as a crime.

Updated: October 28, 2021 - 11:40pm

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued new guidance Thursday fencing off a sweeping range of "protected areas" where illegal aliens can no longer be arrested.

Under the directive, enforcement actions — whether an arrest, search, service of a subpoena, or other action — will be suspended "effective immediately" within a vast array of new sanctuaries including, but not limited to:

  • Schools, including pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, vocational or trade schools, and colleges and universities. 
  • Medical or mental healthcare facilities, like hospitals, doctors' offices, health clinics, vaccination or testing sites, urgent care centers, sites that serve pregnant individuals, or community health centers.
  • Houses of worship or religious studies and places where children gather, like playgrounds, recreation centers, childcare centers, before- or after-school care centers, foster care facilities, group homes for children, or school bus stops.
  • Social services establishments, like crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, victims' services centers, child advocacy centers, supervised visitation centers, family justice centers, community-based organizations, facilities that serve the disabled, homeless shelters, drug or alcohol counseling and treatment facilities, or food banks or other establishments that distribute food or other essentials of life to people in need.
  • Places where disaster or emergency response and relief are provided, including along evacuation routes, where shelter or emergency supplies, food, or water are being distributed, or registration for disaster-related assistance or family reunification is underway.
  • Places where funerals or other religious or civil ceremonies or observances occur, as well as ongoing parades, demonstrations, or rallies.

"When we conduct an enforcement action — whether it is an arrest, search, service of a subpoena, or other action — we need to consider many factors, including the location in which we are conducting the action and its impact on other people and broader societal interests," Mayorkas explains in the memo. "For example, if we take an action at an emergency shelter, it is possible that noncitizens, including children, will be hesitant to visit the shelter and receive needed food and water, urgent medical attention, or other humanitarian care."

To the extent possible, ICE agents are to avoid operating near a protected area, Mayorkas directs.

"This principle is fundamental," the secretary says. "We can accomplish our enforcement mission without denying or limiting individuals' access to needed medical care, children access to their schools, the displaced access to food and shelter, people of faith access to their places of worship, and more. Adherence to this principle is one bedrock of our stature as public servants."

Mayorkas' protected areas memo follows guidance promulgated last month ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to desist from arresting those who have entered the U.S. illegally on the basis of that offense alone, despite statutory law defining the offense as a crime.

"The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them," Mayorkas said in the guidelines, issued on Sept. 30. "We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country's well-being require it."

The Biden administration hands-off enforcement policies are a "de facto amnesty that will make it harder for ICE officers to get criminal aliens off the street," argues Andrew Arthur at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Under federal law passed by Congress, living in the U.S. illegally without a green card or legitimate documents is grounds for removal.

Texas, Missouri and Florida have all sued the Biden administration for circumventing and violating federal immigration law.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued the federal government earlier this month over its "catch-and-release" policy. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the administration twice, first to reinstate the Remain in Mexico Policy, and second to build the border wall. 

Paxton has sued the administration seven times over immigration issues, winning a case on deportation within Biden's first 100 days, and prevailing with the Remain in Mexico Policy suit at both the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The Biden Administration is ruining our country," Paxton lamented at a townhall meeting with residents in the border region. "Our president cares more about helping the cartel than our country. I will fight the Biden Administration tooth and nail until our citizens find relief."

"Time and again, the Biden Administration has refused to take concrete action to quell the worsening border crisis, inviting the cartels and human and drug smugglers to take advantage of our porous border," Schmitt said in a statement when announcing the border wall lawsuit. "Without a border wall, illegal immigrants, coyotes, and bad actors can simply march across our southwest border and into the interior. The border wall needs to be built, the funds have been appropriated to continue to build the wall, and yet the Biden Administration outright refuses to do so. Missouri stands ready to hand the Biden Administration another loss. If Joe Biden continues to refuse to take the necessary steps to secure the border, Missouri will."

A separate challenge filed by ICE agents and sheriffs over arresting and deporting illegal alien criminals is also pending before the courts.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) continues to call for the impeachment of Mayorkas for blatantly ignoring and circumventing the U.S. Constitution. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, citing dereliction of duty and deliberately not enforcing the law, thereby endangering Americans.

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