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Understanding Protected Areas

It's the first week of school for the students in our county and maybe in your county. I remember my first day of school jitters and wishing summer was not over, but I never worried about immigration coming to my school to pick me up. Student absenteeism due to concerns over their immigration status is a real concern. I read an article today on this subject, and I was crushed to read that a kindergartener was taking his little suitcase to school every day just in case immigration came to pick him he wanted to have his “special things” with him. The misinformation about immigration is so rampant and affects everyone, especially children when we don’t get the facts.

Here are the facts:

Immigration policy mandates schools as “protected areas,” meaning there are restrictions on deportations in the vicinity of those spaces. “In a 2011 policy memo, field officers were reminded to exercise discretion in these cases to avoid causing “significant disruption to the normal operations of the sensitive location.”

What are those protected areas?

“Protected areas are locations that provide essential services or activities. When determining if a location is a protected area, DHS considers the activities that take place there, the importance of those activities to the well-being of people and the communities of which they are a part and the impact an enforcement action would have on people’s willingness to be in the protected area and receive or engage in the essential services or activities that occur there. It is a determination that requires the exercise of judgment.”

Examples of protected areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Schools

  • Medical or mental healthcare facilities

  • Places of worship or religious studies

  • Places where children gather

  • Social services establishments

  • Places where disaster or emergency response/relief is provided

  • Places where funerals, graveside ceremonies, rosaries, weddings, or other religious or civil ceremonies or observances occur

  • Places where there are ongoing parades, demonstrations, or rallies

Are there any exceptions?

There might be limited circumstances under which an “enforcement action needs to be taken in or near a protected area such as a national security or a significant person of interest to the authorities or imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to a person.”

A few months ago, before the FL immigration law was enacted, I accepted all invitations to speak about the topic in person, online, and on TV because I wanted to reassure the public to stay calm. I wanted everyone to know that the new law didn’t mean that all undocumented individuals in Florida would be detained and deported. This has proven to be true. The chaos the media was trying to report did not happen after July 1st. We have not seen a spike inside the State of Florida of any raids, detentions, or deportations. On the contrary, many have reported no changes in their lives at work or other places. Many have even told me that going to get medical attention has not been a problem. When we listen to the media, we get anxious and worried unnecessarily. Seek assistance and answers to your questions from professionals not concerned with ratings or dramatic effects but focused on telling you the truth about the current situation. Be careful about who and what you listen to. Get the facts.

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