WASHINGTON – As the Trump Administration plans to target immigrant communities with widespread, indiscriminate raids starting on Sunday, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) with a group of fourteen Senators introducing legislation to block immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and religious institutions without prior approval and exigent circumstances. Blumenthal announced the bill at an event in Hartford with representatives from the ACLU, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), Hartford Area Deportation Defense, Hartford Legal Aid, Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA), and Greater Hartford Legal Aid (GHLA).
The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act codifies the Department of Homeland Security’s existing policies and expands on those policies to ensure that immigrants are able to access education, criminal justice, and social services without fear of deportation. Today’s legislation is based on an amendment that Blumenthal included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013.
“President Trump’s cruel immigration policies do nothing to make us safer. Instead of trying to work with Congress to help solve our immigration crisis, this administration is sowing fear and hurting families to fulfil a campaign pledge. I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal in introducing this legislation to protect sensitive places that immigrants can go without the fear of deportation,” said Murphy.
“As the Trump administration is doubling down on its despicable, indiscriminate immigration enforcement tactics, we are more firmly committed than ever to protecting sensitive spaces like schools and hospitals,” Blumenthal said. “Immigration enforcement actions at schools, courthouses, churches, hospitals and other sensitive locations create a climate of fear that affects the entire community. I am especially appalled by reports that ICE agents stalking the hallways of courthouses have frightened women suffering from domestic abuse away from reporting their abusers or seeking relief through our justice system. We should focus law enforcement resources on real threats to public safety, not parents dropping off their children at schools, church parishioners, or mothers dying of cancer who are going to see the doctor.”
Today’s legislation is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Michael Bennet (D-Col.).
The bill is also supported by more than 300 national, state, and local organizations, the Hispanic Federation, and others.
“The administration's threat of massive immigration raids is a reminder of why it's essential to safeguard places like schools and health care facilities from immigration enforcement actions. Our interviews with parents and early childhood providers revealed that parents across the country are afraid to take their children to child care, school, or the doctor for fear of coming into contact with immigration agents. We’re proud to endorse Senator Blumenthal's Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, a bill that will help provide immigrant families with the peace of mind to carry out these essential activities,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy.
The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act requires that, except in special circumstances, ICE agents receive prior approval from a supervisor when there are exigent circumstances before engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations, such as: schools, hospitals and health clinics, places of worship, organizations assisting crime victims, and organizations that provide services to children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with mental or physical disabilities. The legislation also requires that ICE agents receive annual training and report annually regarding enforcement actions in these locations.
This bill codifies and expands upon rules already in place at ICE, which would provide policy consistency across enforcement agencies and administrations over time, giving immigrant communities certainty that their rights will be respected.