U.S. Government Deems Vaccination Sites “Sensitive Locations”; No Routine Immigration Enforcement

According to a report from NBC Los Angeles, the federal government has clarified that it will classify vaccination sites as ‘sensitive locations’ for the purposes of immigration law. In effect, this means that the government will not be conducting immigration raids or making immigration arrests at these sites but for the “most extraordinary of circumstances.

It is an important step to help ensure that immigrants are able to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Many advocates have raised concerns that undocumented immigrants are being left behind in the vaccine rollout. Here, our Los Angeles immigration attorney discusses the story and explains how the U.S. government handles ‘sensitive locations’ in immigration enforcement.

DHS is Encouraging Everyone to Get Vaccinated—Regardless of Immigration Status

On February 1st, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an official statement encouraging everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of their immigration status. The press release notes that the agency completely supports “equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.

To help achieve this goal, the DHS is clarifying that all vaccination sites are sensitive locations for the purposes of immigration enforcement. Consistent with long-standard agency policy, ICE will not conduct immigration raids or routine enforcement operations at or near COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Notably, the public statement and policy guidance from the DHS represents a sharp shift in tone from the Trump Administration. It is crucial that the federal response facilitates COVID-19 vaccines for undocumented immigrants and their families. Unfortunately, the data has consistently shown that immigrants have faced a disproportionate risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Sensitive Location is a Place Were Enforcement Actions are Restricted

As described by Justice for Immigrants, a sensitive location is a place where immigration enforcement actions are restricted. In 2011, ICE issued a revised memorandum on its sensitive location policy. The policy guidance lays several different sensitive places where immigration operations are inappropriate except for in the most extraordinary of circumstances. Sensitive locations include:

  • Schools;
  • Churches; and
  • Hospitals.

As vaccination sites vary widely, there has been some confusion over how ICE is treating them. The public statement from DHS brings some much needed clarity. Though, it is important to emphasize that a sensitive location designation does not necessarily offer full protection to an undocumented immigrant. While federal immigration officers do not carry out routine enforcement operations at these locations, they can still take certain actions if unusual circumstances are present. Nonetheless, the sensitive location policy is important.

Get Help From an Immigration Attorney in Los Angeles

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our California immigration law team is committed to helping clients solve problems. We have experience with the full spectrum of immigration cases. Contact our office or send us a message today to get immediate help with a legal issue. Initial consultations are always strictly confidential. We represent clients in Los Angeles and throughout all of Southern California, including in San Bernardino County and Orange County.

Josh Goldstein
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