The United States creates more ‘protected areas’ for undocumented residents

US immigration authorities have moved to limit arrests in a variety of “protected areas,” including schools, hospitals, playgrounds, and COVID-19 vaccination centers.

The guidelines, issued Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), directed officers to avoid making arrests or searches in a variety of sensitive locations “to the greatest extent possible,” according to a memo from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. , which describes politics.

The list is longer than similar guidelines issued under former President Barack Obama and is the most recent reversal of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, particularly in regards to domestic immigration law enforcement.

During the Trump administration, who ran on a hardline immigration platform, authorities widely targeted undocumented immigrants for deportation, avoiding Obama-era policies of not singling out those with long-standing community ties. and they had not committed serious crimes.

While the Trump administration maintained a policy of avoiding law enforcement in some sensitive areas, particularly churches, its policies and harsh rhetoric had a chilling effect within undocumented communities, and many migrants avoided participating in life. daily for fear of deportation.

The approach sparked a backlash across the United States, prompting a number of jurisdictions and some institutions to declare themselves “sanctuaries” for the undocumented. That, in turn, sparked lawsuits that sought to force local authorities to coordinate with federal immigration agents.

‘Without denying access to people’

Wednesday’s guidelines underscore what has become a two-pronged approach to undocumented immigrants under the Biden administration, which has promised a more “humane” overall immigration strategy than its predecessor.

Biden has maintained, or has only slightly modified, several of the Trump administration’s controversial policies toward new migrants and asylum seekers crossing the southern U.S. border with Mexico, prompting condemnation from his advocates.

Meanwhile, his administration has tried to take a more focused approach to law enforcement within the country, offering some comfort to the millions of people who have lived in the United States without documentation for decades.

Data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently showed that immigration arrests within the US fell to the lowest level in more than 10 years during fiscal year 2021. Meanwhile, arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border reached an all-time high during the same period, amid an increase in crossing attempts.

Last month, Mayorkas issued a directive saying that a person’s undocumented status “should not be the only basis” for detaining and deporting them. He also instructed agents to prioritize those who had recently crossed into the US or who were deemed to pose a threat to national security.

Last week, it announced the suspension of workplace raids, which advocates say can have a devastating effect on an undocumented individual’s ability to support himself or his family.

Those moves come as Democrats’ efforts to create a path to citizenship have stalled in Congress.

The policy unveiled Wednesday, which also seeks to exclude law enforcement at homeless and domestic violence shelters, food pantries, drug and alcohol rehab centers, protests, and gatherings such as parades, is almost certain to provide more. fodder at Biden’s critics, who say his approach is encouraging more people to try to access the US.

Mayorkas has argued that his agency does not have the resources to go after all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live in the country and that it should focus on those who pose the greatest risk to society.

“We can achieve our mission of enforcing the law without denying people access to necessary medical care, children’s access to their schools, displaced people access to food and shelter, access of people of faith to their places of worship, and more, “Mayorkas said in Wednesday’s memo. .

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