Treading on Sacred Land: First Amendment Implications of ICE’s Targeting of Churches

Gabriella M. D’Agostini*

In the last few years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun to target religious institutions—specifically churches—as a means to find and arrest undocumented immigrants. This technique is in legal tension with the First Amendment rights of free exercise of religion and free association. It is unclear, however, how these legal rights protect those most affected by this targeting tactic: undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants may lack standing to challenge ICE’s tactics on their own and may require the help of related parties to protect their interests.

This Note explores a potential solution to the ambiguity surrounding undocumented immigrants’ protection under the First Amendment. Specifically, this Note argues that while undocumented immigrants may be barred from filing suits challenging the constitutionality of ICE raids on religious institutions, U.S. citizens who worship alongside these immigrants can and should bring such suits and demand injunctions to end the practice. These citizens not only have the undisputed legal rights to bring such potential claims but also may use those rights to provide a legal and practical shield for undocumented immigrants who seek to attend church without government intrusion.

*J.D. Candidate, December 2019, University of Michigan Law School. Thank you to my parents, Lorenzo and Diane D’Agostini, and to my brother, Lorenzo D’Agostini, for all of their support throughout this process. Thank you to Alan J. Gocha for providing me with inspiration, love, and encouragement every step of the way. Thank you to Professor David Thronson, Aviv Halpern, Jackson Erpenbach, and the Notes Editors for their invaluable feedback. I would also like to thank my grandparents, Suham and the late Salim Dickow and Silvia and the late Olimpio D’Agostini. As immigrants from Iraq and Italy, they taught me the mean- ing of hard work, dedication, and resilience, and they inspire me in everything that I do. Finally, I would like to thank my uncle and godfather, the late Ruggero D’Agostini, for his love and support throughout my entire life. This Note is in memory of him.

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