LA Schools to ICE: You Need a Hall Pass to Enforce Immigration Law

In a disturbing new display of both arrogance and ignorance, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has stated that: “No immigration officers will be allowed on campus without clearance from the superintendent of schools, who will consult with district lawyers. Until that happens, they won’t be let in, even if they arrive with a legally valid subpoena.”

Newsflash: The Department of Homeland Security is a federal law enforcement agency with nationwide jurisdiction. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers don’t need the permission of school officials to enter a public building in furtherance of their duties. Section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) confers very broad law enforcement powers upon both ICE and CBP officers, including the authority to interrogate, without warrant, any persons believed to be an alien as to their right to be or to remain in the United States.

And there’s also no evidence that ICE or CBP is carrying out enforcement actions in schools, or has any plans to do so. This appears to be yet another instance of the ACLU and other open-borders organizations prioritizing feelings over facts.

Both ICE and CBP have “sensitive locations policies.” However, as those policies explicitly state, they were intended to ensure that immigration officers exercise sound judgment when conducting operations in locations that the public may perceive as requiring special procedures – such as hospitals and places of worship. Nevertheless, as both policies also make plain, they were not intended to categorically prohibit lawful enforcement operations in any particular location. The INA does not impose any obligation upon immigration officers to play “mother-may-I” with hospital administrators and school officials.

The LAUSD announcement is part of a disturbing trend. The open-borders lobby simply doesn’t like immigration enforcement. Whenever it doesn’t get its way, it stomps its feet, and says, “You may be able to enforce your pesky immigration laws but you can’t do it in my backyard! And you can’t do it without a subpoena (or warrant, or court order, etc.)!”

There’s just a few problems with that position: That’s not how federalism works. Per the terms of the Constitution, immigration enforcement is an exclusively federal domain belonging to the political branches of the federal government – Congress and the Executive. The Supreme Court made that abundantly clear in its decision in Arizona v. United States. Regardless of whether the LAUSD, the ACLU, the California state legislature, or any one else, likes it, the federal government is 100% justified in exercising its constitutional authority in hospitals, churches, and schools in the Golden State if ICE determines that such action is justified by circumstance. And since both ICE and CBP have appropriate policies in place – there seems to be little need for concern that DHS will go bulling through middle schools arresting illegal alien tween-agers any time soon.

And a subpoena is a command to appear at a specified time and place to give testimony to a tribunal or commission on a particular legal issue. Immigration officers aren’t required to obtain a subpoena prior to conducting an interrogation or effectuating an arrest. A subpoena is required only when ICE or CBP wishes to compel someone to provide testimony or oblige someone to produce records. In fact, in most cases, immigration officers aren’t even required to obtain a warrant – the plain language of INA Section 287(a)(2) makes it clear that Congress was concerned with the likelihood that illegal aliens would escape if immigration authorities were saddled with a rigid warrant requirement.

American-style collaborative federalism is dependent upon balancing the interests of the states and the federal government. However, that balance is pretty clearly established. The federal government is responsible for defense, diplomacy and national security – issues that affect us all equally, as a nation. When state entities, like the LAUSD, inappropriately intrude into the federal sphere they place their political interests, and those of illegal aliens, above those of American citizens. They also turn California into a magnet for alien terrorists and criminals. Therefore, it’s high time for the Trump administration to remind California, and other rogue jurisdictions, that immigration is a national issue and none of the states is entitled to compromise the security of Union and the integrity of its borders.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar
    lawrence schreiber on

    I worked for a Federal government agency that had authority to issue and enforce administrative summons. As the manager more than once I had to require issuance and enforcement of summons against local authorities. When the locals realize how they will be affected by refusing to cooperate it has a chilling effect on their refusals.

  2. avatar

    Should any los angeles officials interfere with ICE duties, they need to be arrested and charged under Title 8 for harboring/shielding illegal aliens from immigration enforcement.

  3. avatar

    I think this should come never to this.,,,otherwise the very essence of Freedom is forever gone in our lifetime….this is ridiculous. About time emigration reform as other issues are to be fixed………

    • avatar

      Fix it by enforcing our laws , illegals have no right to be here ….. and the school district and it’s employees are in violation of Federal Law

      • avatar

        liberaldisgust you can say whatever you want The People invited them here and abused them…now we have a problem… appears you do not know anything about life…..

  4. avatar

    Last I Heard/Read

    Public Schools cost the federal government about $10K/student/year….

    And illegal aliens aren’t dragging the economy down if we allow illegal non-citizens in our schools?

    • avatar

      Of course they are , every penny we spend on people who are here illegally is a penny we can’t spend on the sons and daughters of American Citizens …..

      • avatar

        HAHAHAHA!!! you spend nothing on them…they work harder than you and should thank them for putting money i your retirement……

        • avatar
          Not Politically Correct on

          So how do you know how hard liberaldisgust does or doesn’t work? That’s right you don’t you stupid troll!!!!!!!!

          • avatar

            Because you are the only ignorant idiot that does not know it……even you can find in illegals people more decent & honest, and wealthier than you