Are There Really Any Safe Spaces For Immigrants?

Around 6:30 a.m. on January 27, 2016, 19-year-old Yefri Sorto-Hernandez, a senior at West Mecklenburg High in Charlotte, North Carolina, was waiting at a school bus stop outside his home when two armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him, just as a bus full of his classmates pulled up.

That’s one version of the story.

The other goes like this: Undocumented Central American immigrant Yefri Sorto-Hernandez was taken into ICE custody outside his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few yards away from a bus stop. The agents had no idea that it was even a school bus stop.

The discrepancies between the two accounts may seem small, but they have raised major questions about the Department of Homeland Security’s “sensitive locations” policy, which deems spaces like schools, churches, and hospitals off-limits for immigration enforcement. A 2011 ICE memo created the policy, so that “agents exercise sound judgment when enforcing federal law at or focused on sensitive locations and make substantial efforts to avoid unnecessarily alarming local communities.” Several recent incidents, however, have generated outrage among immigrants’ rights activists, who argue that agents appear to be free to ignore the guidelines.

By TANVI MISRA for Atlantic CityLab
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