The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agencies have made public this week new policies put into place that give undocumented immigrants protections from immigration enforcement actions at certain locations deemed "sensitive."

Both ICE and CPB have announced that they have issued and begun implementing new policies concerning protective actions at, or focused on immigration enforcement actions at "sensitive locations." These policies offer so-called "safe zones" to immigrants in the United States from enforcement actions at sites including schools, hospitals, places of worship and others.

Enforcement situations covered by these new policies, as defined by DHS, are any actions taken by ICE or CPB to apprehend, arrest, interview, or search an individual. However, there are several actions that are not covered by the "sensitive location" policies and these include activities like obtaining records, documents and similar materials from officials or employees, providing notice to officials or employees, serving subpoenas, searching or securing detainees, or engaging in Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) compliance and certification visits.

The policies provide that enforcement actions at the newly defined sensitive locations should be avoided whenever possible, except in certain extenuating circumstances. Such circumstances may include those related to national security, terrorism, public safety, or some instances of ongoing criminal cases where there is the possibility of destruction of related evidence critical to investigating and solving said cases.

According to the CPB website, these policies have been put in place to ensure that U.S immigration officials exercise "sound judgement 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."

"Sensitive locations," as defined by DHS, include the following sites:

1. Schools, including licensed daycare facilities, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools (including colleges and universities); scholastic or education-related events, and school bus stops (though only during periods when school children are present at the stop).

2. Medical treatment and health care facilities including hospitals, doctors' offices, accredited health clinics and emergency or urgent care facilities.

3. Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples.

4. Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings.

5. During public demonstrations, including marches and rallies.

In some instances, as mentioned above, enforcement actions may be taken at these "sensitive" locations, but with prior approval needed from supervisory officials required (or in exigent circumstances). When proceeding with enforcement actions under so-called exigent circumstances, immigration officers are required to conduct themselves fairly and professionally in ensuring that best endeavors consistent with the safety and well-being of all involved are taken at all times.