ICE and CPB consider hospitals and other healthcare facilities to be sensitive locations where enforcement actions should be avoided without prior approval or unless there are exigent circumstances. Despite that policy, undocumented aliens continue to be arrested at medical facilities where they are receiving treatment or where they have accompanied ailing family members. Since the sensitive locations policy is only guidance, legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and the House to codify and therefore strengthen those policies. The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act was sponsored in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and by Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) in the House to give greater protection to hospitals, medical facilities, schools, churches and courthouses and to eliminate the “climate of fear” that may prevent immigrants from seeking necessary care.
Here are some general tips on what to do in if ICE comes to your facility to gather information or arrest a patient or family member. Remember, an ICE enforcement action can have serious civil and criminal consequences for your patients, your staff and your facility. It is therefore essential to protect your rights and those of your patients and staff by consulting with counsel on these matters. The following overview is simply meant to provide medical facility employers with some basics to consider in advance of any enforcement action.
- Assign and prepare several staff members to be the contact person in case ICE arrives at your facility and make sure all receptionists know to notify a contact person if there is enforcement activity.
- Identify appropriate legal counsel in advance of any enforcement action and be sure that receptionists know to contact that attorney immediately for advice if ICE agents arrive on the premises.
- Ask the ICE officers to provide identification when they enter your facility.
- The assigned contact person should accompany the ICE officers at all times while they are at your facility and take notes of all actions.
- There is no obligation to collect information on immigration status. If you do not collect that information then you do not need to worry about being asked to disclose that information.
- During an enforcement action, staff should not engage in any activities that could be considered harboring or obstruction.
- Once the officers leave, there should be a full debriefing.
- Agents can look into anything that is in “plain view” in a public space. Make sure your staff understands that patient information must be protected everywhere in the facility–this includes paperwork and oral conversations.
- Without a warrant or probable cause, immigration officers cannot enter private areas absent consent of an authorized representative. Individuals can be vulnerable in public spaces within your facility where there is no expectation of privacy. You may want to consider establishing specific “private spaces” within your facility where there is an expectation of privacy. Access in those private areas would be limited to patients, family members and necessary staff. Policies, signage and barriers can be used to delimit these private areas.
- If ICE has obtained a warrant, the contact should examine it to ensure it is properly signed, review the specific premises to be searched and not allow agents to search areas outside of those specific premises unless they have probable cause.
- Your employees are not required to give any statements to ICE officers or allow themselves to be interrogated.
- Conduct training for staff members and make educational materials available to patients about their rights.