Immigration agents will no longer go into churches or synagogues in pursuit of suspected illegal aliens unless they have a search or arrest warrant or prior approval from a supervisor, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said Monday in Los Angeles.
The new policy was drafted after a Border Patrol agent followed a suspected illegal alien into La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange during an evening Mass and arrested seven men Sept. 27. The incursion prompted criticism by priests, ministers and immigrants’ advocates.
In hot pursuits, “Border Patrol agents or investigators will stop at the door (and) seek out their supervisor who will in turn go to the rectory or the church office and seek the cooperation of the person in charge of the church,” Western Regional INS Commissioner Harold Ezell said.
The only exception, the policy says, is in the case of an agent chasing a “fleeing felon.” Illegal aliens generally are not considered felons.