WASHINGTON – Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from arresting undocumented immigrants at “sensitive locations” that have been generally avoided under DHS policy.
“What that means actually is that ICE, and also Border Patrol agents, will not be able to have surveillance or to arrest anybody in sensitive locations: churches, schools, hospitals, funeral homes, in weddings, in motor vehicle departments across the country,” Espaillat said Thursday on Capitol Hill when formally introducing the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, which has 24 co-sponsors so far.
“We have seen photos of ICE vans on church grounds, so this legislation will prohibit them. It will codify, if you may, a regulation that’s already supposedly in place within Homeland Security, which prohibits law enforcement to be able to have access and make arrests and question and surveil individuals in these highly sensitive locations,” he added.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said there have been cases where ICE has ignored its internal memo, issued under the Obama administration, that directs agents not to arrest undocumented immigrants in sensitive locations.
“The last thing we need is an over-aggressive, over-rambunctious ICE organization disrespecting our sensitive areas,” he said.
Espaillat said he recently met with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who told him ICE agents are not arresting undocumented immigrants outside of sensitive locations.
“They will not be able to conduct these very aggressive acts within these very sensitive locations, and so this is very important. This is what America stands for,” he said about the legislation. “Should we be able to take our kids to school in relative peace, should we be able to go to church on Sunday and not be afraid that we will come out and be arrested? Should we be able to go grieve for our relatives in a funeral home and feel reassured when we go outside we won’t be handcuffed by ICE?”
Espaillat also said Kelly was supportive of the ICE Body Camera Act of 2017, which would “require all deportation officers of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to wear body cameras when engaged in field operations and removal proceedings, and for other purposes.”
“[Kelly] said, for one, that he would not object to the body camera bill, that we needed to get the funding, so we’re looking to go to appropriations to see how we can get the funding,” Espaillat said.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said her constituents are “incredibly disturbed and afraid” because of the ICE raids.
“Recent ICE action has been aggressive and mean-spirited and it doesn’t improve the safety of our communities,” she said. “The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act will keep ICE out of sensitive locations and make sure that immigrant families can take their kids to school, go to worship, or seek protective orders and police assistance. This legislation is desperately needed.”
According to Bonamici, ICE agents are present in the Multnomah County courthouse, which has caused illegal immigrants to be “afraid to seek justice” if they have not been paid by their employer or cheated by their landlord.
“Members of our community deserve to feel safe and to be safe when they are accessing justice, when they are seeking education or healthcare or when they are practicing their faith,” she said.
Bonamici said a father told her that he was afraid to take his daughter to school because ICE agents could be waiting for him at the door.
“That is unacceptable and that doesn’t make our communities safer,” she said.