Biden Administration Expands Protected Areas

The Biden administration recently issued a new guidance barring immigration enforcement in certain protected areas. This includes places offering social services (domestic violence shelters, food banks, facilities for disabled individuals), places where children gather (bus stops, playgrounds, childcare centers, after-school programs, foster care facilities), medical treatment centers (hospitals, doctor’s offices, COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites, mental health providers, urgent care centers), civil ceremonies (funerals and weddings), public demonstrations (parades, rallies, political demonstrations), emergency response shelters, and places of worship. Immigration agents cannot make arrests, conduct searches, or serve subpoenas in these places. There are a few exceptions, such as matters constituting a serious threat to national security, and enforcement officers must refer to agency headquarters to be granted an exception. The guidance is a major expansion of a previous Obama era policy, which technically remained in effect during the Trump administration but was mostly ignored. In an interview right before the official announcement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that “individuals should not be restrained or limited in their access to essential services.” The shift could improve the lives of millions of immigrants, especially those whose access to important resources have been affected by anxiety.