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Are you safe from ICE if you hide in a church?

Immigration Services

If you already know U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is seeking to have you removed from the country, or if your situation places you at risk of deportation, you may have many questions about your options. In fact, you may spend much of your time wondering and worrying about what to do and what will happen to you and your family if ICE officials force you to leave the United States.

Perhaps you have seen news stories about individuals or families who hide in churches as a way of seeking sanctuary from government officials and the process of deportation. If you are considering taking this dramatic and unorthodox step, you should know a few facts about immigration law and the reasons why you may not be as safe as you think in a Kentucky church.

When will ICE enter sensitive locations?

A common misconception exists, even among U.S. citizens, when it comes to churches and other sensitive locations. You may be among those who believe law enforcement and ICE officials cannot enter a church to arrest you for immigration or criminal violations. While these agencies and others prefer to avoid enforcement actions at sensitive locations such as houses of worship, schools, hospitals, and places where you may be attending a wedding or funeral, such actions may take place in the following circumstances:

  • National security or public safety is at risk.
  • You or someone taking refuge with you has a history of violent criminal activity.
  • Other law enforcement agencies are taking action in the sensitive location.
  • ICE supervisors have granted approval for agents to enter a sensitive location.

Of course, ICE agents will consider other factors. For example, they will not enter a church to make an arrest unless they are certain the person they seek is present, and they will likely refrain from entering a church if a worship service is in progress unless any of the above dangers exist.

What are your options?

The restrictions on ICE activity in sensitive locations exist because the government wants you and others to feel confident that you are safe if you want to take part in worship, education or other activities that may take place in sensitive locations. However, since seeking refuge in a church or school to avoid ICE agents is beyond the scope of this trust, you may not be immune from questioning, searches or arrest if you remain there to avoid deportation or other actions.

Rather than risking the safety of you and your family, you may learn of alternate options if you seek the advice of an attorney who understands immigration laws.

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