ICE Still Appearing at Courthouses
ICE has in place a policy governing interior enforcement actions at sensitive locations. These locations have been defined as schools, hospitals, houses of worship, religious/civil events (e.g., weddings and funerals), and public demonstrations (e.g., marches and rallies). Under its guidelines, if an enforcement action is set to take place at one of these locations, there must be prior approval or exigent circumstances. (Its policy applies only at sensitive locations not merely near them.) ICE has never considered courthouses to be sensitive locations and will conduct enforcement operations there. ICE has been pressed on this issue several times, because the policy deters victims and witnesses to crimes to come forward, but has not expressed any willingness to add courts to the sensitive locations list. In fact, DHS Secretary Nielsen, at her recent Senate hearing, rejected all proposals to discontinue the practice. ICE supports this decision by citing: (1) the unwillingness of some local jurisdictions to honor ICE requests; (2) the inherent safety in pursuing enforcement actions in places where people have already been screened for weapons, and (3) that enforcement actions at courthouses are extremely common for other local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. While a number of judges have publicly expressed their outrage over the practice, the public should not expect ICE to stop this practice absent a judicial ruling.