Immigration Fight Has Led Democrats to Propose Banning ICE Agents from Courthouses, Bus Stops

An agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stands guard in front of an industrial building near the Mexican border in Otay Mesa, California November 3, 2010. With an uptick in raids, Democratic lawmakers have proposed banning ICE agents from courthouse and bus stops. Mike Blake/Reuters

Under President Donald Trump—who campaigned on his hard-line anti-immigration stance—immigration officials have ramped up raids to detain undocumented immigrants. Democratic lawmakers last week proposed a bill to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from conducting arrests, surveillance, interviews, or other similar activities, at certain locations considered to be sensitive.

Previous ICE memos limited enforcement at places like schools, hospitals, and places of worship as well as events like weddings or funerals. The new bill, called the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, would expand that policy significantly. Under the Democratic lawmakers' plan, enforcement would be limited in courthouses, any scholastic event, any bus stop where children are present, health care facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, public assistance offices and DMV offices among other facilities.

The proposed bill would also make the previous sensitive locations outlined in ICE memos into places prohibited by actual law, instead of internal policy.

"Our communities are better and safer if all residents feel secure when accessing justice, seeking education and health care, or practicing their faith," said Rep Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) in a statement. "Recent ICE action targeting immigrants has been aggressive and mean-spirited, and it does not improve the safety of our communities. The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act will keep ICE out of sensitive locations and make sure immigrant families can take their kids to school, go to worship, or seek protective orders and police assistance. This legislation is desperately needed."

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The bill was sponsored by Bonamici, Jose E. Serrano (D-New York), Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Adriano Espaillat (D-New York).

"If you go to a family funeral you should not be subject to arrest while you're grieving your family," Espaillat said at a press conference last week, according to DNAInfo New York.

The bill comes amid an ongoing fight over immigration. A Republican California judge recently wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly that slammed ICE agents for using courthouses as "bait" to detain undocumented immigrants, the Washington Post reported. According to the paper, courthouse raids have been documented in at least five states: California, Texas, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.

Sessions has criticized so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants, threatening to pull federal funding.

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"We intend to use all the lawful authorities we have to make sure our state and local officials... are in sync with the federal government," Sessions said last week in a press conference.

Immigration Fight Has Led Democrats to Propose Banning ICE Agents from Courthouses, Bus Stops | U.S.