Legal Advisory: Requests to school districts made by ICE

Guidelines for public school districts re requests for access or information by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Late last week, MA Attorney General Maura Healey issued guidance to health care providers and local public school districts on immigration enforcement and requests for information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The AG’s Office issued the guidance following inquiries from health care providers and public school officials about the impact of federal immigration policies and executive orders on patients and students. This guidance follows an advisory the AG’s Office sent earlier this year reminding local public school districts of their obligation under state and federal law to provide all students with equal access to primary and secondary education, irrespective of citizenship or immigration status.

Under its current policies, ICE does not generally conduct enforcement activities such as surveillance, interviews, searches and arrests, at certain “sensitive locations.” The purpose of this policy is to ensure that people seeking to utilize critical services or participate in activities are able to do so without fear. “Sensitive locations” include hospitals, school grounds, locations where school activities are taking place, bus stops during times of day when children are present, and, according to the ICE website, health care facilities such as doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics and urgent care facilities.

The AG’s guidance addresses the rights of health care providers, school officials, patients, students, and their families in these “sensitive locations,” and provides information to public school officials and health care providers about steps to take should ICE request access to a facility or information about patients or students.

The guidance makes clear that health care providers are not required to ask about immigration status and they may treat anyone regardless of their status, and that emergency departments are required to provide emergency screening and stabilization services without asking about immigration or insurance status. Public schools should not inquire about immigration status and are required under both state and federal law to provide equal access to education to all students regardless of immigration status.

Stephen Finnegan, Esq.
MASC General Counsel