“We are eager to get this out to the campus as there is concern that we might experience visits from Federal or State agents at any time now and that our staff are not prepared for how to manage such visits,” Strauss' email read.
The guide recommended University employees immediately reach out to UNC Police and the Office of University Counsel if contacted by government agents. It urged employee reluctance to disclose any information, citing policies like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which are designed to protect the private information of students and faculty.
ICE has received widespread criticism in the past year over its non-targeted arrests, like the detainment of 25 people who were undocumented in the Triangle area last April. The arrests kickstart deportation proceedings in immigration courts.
Bryan Cox, ICE’s Southern region communications director, said to the best of his knowledge, no visits have been made to the University by ICE agents and none are planned.
He cited the “sensitive locations” policy, an Obama-era piece of legislation that limits ICE’s activity in certain spaces like college campuses and churches.
Cox said ICE could visit UNC's campus for various other matters not related to immigration enforcement, including investigations into things like human trafficking, drug trafficking and internet-based crimes.
“ICE actually has the broadest law enforcement authority of any federal agency,” Cox said.
Marty Rosenbluth, an immigration attorney in Raleigh, said it's highly unlikely ICE would detain an individual on UNC’s campus because of the public exposure it would bring.
“They would probably grab them coming out of their house in the morning or at the supermarket or something like that,” Rosenbluth said.
Just over a week before the University began crafting its memo, the April ICE raids were the focus of an email chain between Strauss and other UNC personnel.
In the email chain, Strauss said the news made him “very disappointed.” Director of International Student and Scholar Services Elizabeth Barnum called it “very troubling” and called for more resources for students from families of mixed-immigration status. Department of Religious Studies professor Todd Ramón Ochoa called it “disturbing.”
An ICE raid at UNC’s campus would not be a random decision, Rosenbluth said. The agency knows it would face large-scale protests and would instead work with Chancellor Carol Folt’s administration to coordinate any detainment plans.
Rosenbluth said he thinks random appearances on-campus by ICE agents enforcing immigration are unlikely now.
“But, and we’ve talked about this, these days, immigration enforcement is so completely nutty that I don’t think you can rule anything out,” Rosenbluth said.