ICE scales back enforcement operations, will avoid health care facilities

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SAN DIEGO — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will temporarily scale back its enforcement operations, effective immediately, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency announced Wednesday.

ICE will focus on deporting individuals who pose public safety risks and mandatory detention cases for those who have committed crimes.

The move was made “to ensure the welfare and safety of the general public as well as officers and agents,” the agency said in a statement released on Twitter. “ICE’s highest priorities are to promote life-saving and public safety activities.”

ICE said it will “exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate.”

It did not elaborate on what such alternatives might be.

Agents will not carry out enforcement at or near health care facilities like hospitals, doctors’ offices, health or urgent clinics except “in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” according to the statement.

The agency urged individuals not to avoid seeking medical care of fear of civil immigration enforcement.

Mission critical investigations and enforcement will continue, including investigations into child exploitation, gangs, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, human smuggling, and continued participation on the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

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