In a truly disturbing development, the Biden administration has declared that federal law enforcement is largely prohibited from conducting any immigration enforcement of criminal aliens near countless locations throughout the country, including near any “place where children gather” such as a playground or recreational center. What used to be safe spaces for vulnerable members of society have been transformed into safe spaces for violent offenders. This new policy prohibits even basic surveillance of a criminal alien suspect who happens to be in or near so-called “protected” areas. These locations are mini sanctuaries for criminal aliens who are now “protected” from federal law enforcement officers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
This new anti-enforcement policy applies to all of ICE’s and CBP’s authorities such as “arrests, civil apprehensions, searches, inspections, seizures, service of charging documents or subpoenas, interviews, and immigration enforcement surveillance.” To be clear: An ICE officer seeking to arrest and remove an illegal alien convicted for sex abuse must now refrain from even conducting surveillance on the criminal if he is anywhere near a schoolyard. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls this a “noble” way to “advance our country’s well-being”. It’s unclear whether DHS has conducted any analysis to determine how many people will be victimized by their new policy.
The scope is virtually limitless and undefined, and Mayorkas explains the goal is to limit immigration enforcement’s “impact on other people and broader societal interests”. While there may be instances where ICE and CBP’s missions are not an immediate priority — say, perhaps, at a triage center immediately following natural disaster — this policy was written with the perspective that nearly all functions of society are more important than DHS’s immigration enforcement mission. This is the natural result of having a DHS secretary who is not a champion of the agencies he oversees.
The policy is not entirely clear on what counts as a protected location. Mayorkas does make it clear that officers need to be careful because any location might be “protected” from law enforcement, writing that determining where an officer can carry out his or her responsibilities “requires us to understand the activities that take place there, the importance of those activities to the well-being of people and the communities of which they are a part, and the impact an enforcement action would have on people’s willingness to be in the protected area.” On top of that nebulous explanation, officers are also prohibited from doing their job anywhere “near” a protected area, an imprecise requirement that DHS admits has “no bright-line definition”. Mayorkas explains that a “variety of factors can be informative, such as proximity to the protected area, visibility from the protected area, and people’s behavioral patterns in and around the protected area.”
Instead of protecting the public and making arrests, the Biden administration wants officers to become sociologists and observe the public’s behavioral patterns, such as pedestrian traffic, to assess whether a criminal target is in a potentially protected area. But this begs the question: How can officers surveil a location’s pedestrian patterns to determine if it’s a protected area when guidelines say surveillance in protected areas is prohibited? This sloppy, poorly drafted policy will necessarily get officers into trouble simply for trying to do their jobs. The result is that many officers won’t take the risk of being reprimanded by Biden’s political appointees and public safety will be harmed.
Despite the lack of clarity, the new policy does include examples of what constitutes a protected area: Near a community-based organization; near where a wedding might occur (like a hotel, even if there’s no wedding actually occurring); near a vaccination site (which would seem to include any street in America with a pharmacy); near any place where children gather; near any place with an ongoing parade, demonstration, or rally; and any structure or temporary facility where activities of faith are occurring, to name a few. Here’s an excerpt of a list contained in the policy:
The policy is so overbroad it even applies to locations that aren’t open or operational. Mayorkas explains that an officer’s “obligation to refrain” from doing their job “applies at all times and is not limited by hours or days of operation.” This means officers would be in violation of the policy for an arrest that happens to be near an unused school bus stop in the middle of summer when school is not in session. Officers are now required to be aware of every school bus stop in every town they oversee, many of which are not marked and are simply street corners in neighborhoods, of course. And since this policy prohibits arrests “near” such locations, any street with an ad hoc bus stop is now considered an illegal-alien sanctuary every day of the year.
As another example, officers are now prohibited from surveilling and arresting a criminal alien near a snow-covered, closed-for-the-winter public recreation center if the facility happens to offer swim lessons to children the following summer. Imagine a scenario where officers have the potential home address for a dangerous criminal alien on a watchlist, and the apartment complex in which the target may live is across the street from a shuttered recreation center. DHS apparently imagines that instead of surveilling from an unmarked car outside the apartment building to see if the target is at that address, officers will now park multiple unmarked vehicles a block or two down the road at every possible exit point and attempt to observe the face of every driver that passes through the area. Of course, if there happens to be something amounting to a “community based organization” nearby, officers would have to push the perimeter out even further and likely add more officers in unmarked cars to cover any additional vehicular exit points. This is an obviously inefficient use of resources and one that significantly undermines public safety by increasing the likelihood a suspect will evade law enforcement.
Mayorkas explains that the limitations don’t apply where there’s an “imminent” risk of harm or a “hot pursuit”, but those are rare circumstances and would rarely apply. It means that officers are prohibited from arresting a known child abuser on the same street as a school unless they observe the alien starting to victimize someone. Of course, officers are prohibited from conducting surveillance near schools anyhow, so officers are unlikely to be available to stop an assault from happening.
The new policy effectively discourages officers from making any arrests that could conceivably be near a potential “protected area” by requiring lengthy reporting that would naturally put an officer on the Biden administration’s radar. Any potential deviation from these overbroad and unclear guidelines requires detailed situational reports:
Mayorkas laughably claims in his memorandum that “we do not tolerate violations of law in or near a protected area.” Of course, the entire point of his new policy is to do exactly that, and innocent people will undoubtedly be harmed as a result.
Anyone who lives in a neighborhood with a church, a school, or a playground nearby needs to be aware that Biden’s political appointees have decided that they don’t deserve the protection they once had, and that shielding criminal aliens from the law is the top priority.
In sum, this convoluted policy further narrows the already limited opportunities for immigration enforcement under the Biden administration by creating sanctuary areas throughout the country. Officers must walk on eggshells and criminal aliens get safe spaces.