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I am wondering if ICE has the legal authority to immediately arrest illegal immigrants after they have received medical care at U.S. hospitals for COVID-19. I am referring to people who voluntarily came into U.S. hospitals to receive this medical treatment.

Moreover, if ICE does have the legal authority to do this, do the mayors of sanctuary cities currently have a legal right to intervene to stop ICE from arresting these particular illegal immigrants? I am thinking in particular about the mayors of cities throughout the state of California.

  • What would the mayors do? Send the local cops to have an armed stand off with the feds? – john doe Apr 6 at 21:41
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    @john doe, no, they would likely never do that. Yet, if the sudden appearance of ICE agents within a hospital would hinder the work of doctors and nurses there, then the hospital could decide to contact the local cops and demand that they make the ICE agents leave the premises. I believe in such a situation the ICE agents would have to back down and leave. – user255577 Apr 7 at 3:21
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    @johndoe user255577 has a point. I believe that in New York City, federal agents cannot enter city schools without permission unless they have a warrant (I saw an article several months ago about some concern when agents either entered or parked outside a city school). Presumably the same is true of city hospitals as well as private hospitals. (Most hospitals in the city are private, in which case it is the hospital that decides, not the city.) – phoog Apr 7 at 13:15
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ICE has a degree of authority to deport without court hearing, via an expedited process. The legal framework for such deportations are explained here, and rely on 8 USC 1225. The Secretary of DHS has authority to establish rules, and has recently done so here. The current regulations pertaining to expedited removal are at 8 CFR 253.3. There is no exemption for people being medically treated, for covid-19 or any other reason, but "parole" is available (at the discretion of the attorney general) to "parole" an immigrant if it is "is required to meet a medical emergency". Thus an illegal immigrant in the ICU might be exempt from immediate deportation, but that is at the discretion of the AG. State and local officials do not have the authority to interfere in the enforcement of federal law, even if the state or municipality has declared itself a "sanctuary". The criminal penalties for interference are spelled out here; no law compells cooperation, the law simply prohibits forcible interference.

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  • thanks for providing those links to those legal documents. I will read over them now to get a better idea of what ICE is able to do or not do. – user255577 Apr 5 at 15:56
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    Why limit the answer to expedited removal? It only applies to a (probably fairly small) minority of aliens eligible for removal. – phoog Apr 5 at 16:38
  • Also I think the AG's authority in this regard under the INA was transferred to the Secretary of Homeland Security. (It was the AG's authority because the INS was part of the justice department.) But they didn't amend every instance of "Attorney General" in the statute; they redefined the term. – phoog Apr 5 at 16:47
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I am wondering if ICE has the legal authority to immediately deport illegal immigrants after they have received medical care at U.S. hospitals for COVID-19. I am referring to people who voluntarily came into U.S. hospitals to receive this medical treatment.

How do you define "immediately"? ICE can certainly arrest them. Many of them will need to be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge before they can be removed.

Moreover, if ICE does have the legal authority to do this, do the mayors of sanctuary cities currently have a legal right to intervene to stop ICE from deporting these particular illegal immigrants? I am thinking in particular about the mayors of cities throughout the state of California.

In general, of course not. No state or local official has the authority to prevent a federal officer from making a lawful arrest.

There may be provisions to delay the arrest, for example while the intended subject of the arrest is hospitalized, but people who have recovered from COVID-19 (or any other disease) would be subject to arrest if ICE can get their hands on them.

Sanctuary cities are not obliged to help ICE identify, locate, or arrest people, but to the extent that ICE can do that by itself, sanctuary cities cannot impede it.

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    the way I define 'immediately' is as soon as the doctor says that the patient no longer as the COVID-19 virus and can be released from his/her care, then at that point an ICE agent can take the person into custody. – user255577 Apr 5 at 17:23
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    @user255577 in that case you might want to distinguish "deport" from "arrest," because ICE has authority to arrest far more people than it has authority to deport; in most cases deportation must be ordered by an immigration judge, after a hearing that can't take place until after the person is arrested, so that is not "immediate." I suspect that you didn't intend your question to that level of technical precision. – phoog Apr 6 at 15:11
  • That's a good point you make. I will now edit the Body text to replace 'deport' with 'arrest'. – user255577 Apr 6 at 15:27
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    @user255577 I'd also assume that it's possible to take them into custody before "the doctor says that the patient no longer as the COVID-19 virus and can be released from his/her care" - if the patient is (still) infected and could use some care but it's not a medical emergency then that's not an obstacle for arrest, and also the opinion of any particular doctor (especially one with a pre-existing financial arrangement with that patient, if they "voluntarily came into U.S. hospitals to receive this medical treatment") of what constitutes a medical emergency can be overruled. – Peteris Apr 6 at 21:00
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    @Peteris more broadly, law enforcement officers regularly maintain custody of hospitalized patients. They can post an officer outside the patient's room. I've seen people handcuffed to their hospital beds in the emergency room. Perhaps you should turn that comment into an answer, though I don't know the extent to which ICE does this, or the extent to which it would be permissible for someone who is not a threat to anyone's safety but only a flight risk. – phoog Apr 7 at 13:11

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