ABC-7 set out to find which spaces are considered "sensitive locations" by federal agents after an undocumented immigrant was taken into custody at the El Paso County Courthouse Feb. 9.
A criminal complaint obtained by ABC-7 states Irvin "Ervin" Gonzalez, who identifies as a woman, was trying to file a protective order against Mario Alberta de Avila, her ex-boyfriend.
Surveillance video released Thursday shows she was taken into custody by two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dressed in plain clothes after leaving the courtroom.
The court document states Gonzales was residing at a Center Against Sexual and Family Violence resource center, raising concerns as to whether this type of shelter is a safe place from immigration officials.
Stephanie Karr, the center's executive director, said it's still unclear if the shelter is considered a sensitive location on which officials will not make arrests.
Karr said they will clarify that detail Friday during a meeting with Congressman Beto O' Rourke and ICE.
ICE sent out a statement to ABC-7 Thursday.
"Supervisors should take extra care when assessing whether a planned enforcement action could reasonably be viewed as causing significant disruption to the normal operations of the sensitive location. ICE employees should also exercise caution. For example, particular care should be exercised with any organization assisting children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with significant mental or physical disabilities."
As for courthouses, ICE said it does not fall under ICE or CBP's policies concerning enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations.
According to the Department of Homeland Security's policies, enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals should generally be avoided, and that such actions may only take place when (a) prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official, or (b) there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval.
It states the policies are meant to ensure that ICE and CBP officers and agents exercise sound judgment when enforcing federal law at or focused on sensitive locations, to enhance the public understanding and trust, and to ensure that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so, without fear or hesitation.
Locations covered by these policies would include, but not be limited to:
- Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities;
- Scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop;
- Medical treatment and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities;
- Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
- Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings; and
- During public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade.
Enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances, but will generally be avoided.
ICE or CBP officers and agents may conduct an enforcement action at a sensitive location with prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official, or if the enforcement action involves exigent circumstances.
Also, ICE and CBP officers may carry out an enforcement action at a sensitive location without prior approval from a supervisor in exigent circumstances related to national security, terrorism, or public safety, or where there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to an ongoing criminal case.
It states when proceeding with an enforcement action under exigent circumstances, officers and agents must conduct themselves as discreetly as possible, consistent with officer and public safety, and make every effort to limit the time at or focused on the sensitive location.
The sensitive locations policy does not apply to operations that are conducted within the immediate vicinity of the international border, including the functional equivalent of the border.
However, when situations arise that call for enforcement actions at or near a sensitive location within the immediate vicinity of the international border, including its functional equivalent, agents and officers are expected to exercise sound judgment and common sense while taking appropriate action, consistent with the goals of this policy.
Examples of operations within the immediate vicinity of the border are, but are not limited to, searches at ports of entry, activities undertaken where there is reasonable certainty that an individual just crossed the border, circumstances where DHS has maintained surveillance of a subject since crossing the border, and circumstances where DHS is operating in a location that is geographically further from the border but separated from the border by rugged and remote terrain.
There are a number of locations where an individual may lodge a complaint about a particular DHS enforcement action that may have taken place in violation of the sensitive locations policy. You may find information about these locations, and information about how to file a complaint, on the DHS, CBP, or ICE websites.
You may contact ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) through the Detention Reporting and Information Line at (888)351-4024 or through the ERO information email address at ERO.INFO@ice.dhs.gov, also available at https://www.ice.gov/webform/ero-contact-form.
The Civil Liberties Division of the ICE Office of Diversity and Civil Rights may be contacted at (202) 732-0092 or ICE.Civil.Liberties@ice.dhs.gov.
You may contact the CBP Information Center to file a complaint or compliment via phone at 1 (877) 227-5511, or submit an email through the website at https://help.cbp.gov.
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