Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and ten Senators in introducing legislation to prevent immigration enforcement officers from taking enforcement actions at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and religious institutions without prior approval and exigent circumstances. 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, the justice system, and social services without fear of deportation.
““ICE agents should respect the existing policy and refrain from enforcement actions at sensitive locations such as schools, churches and hospitals,” said Cortez Masto. “In recent weeks there have ICE officers have apprehended undocumented immigrants seeking protection from abusive partners in courthouses and undocumented parents dropping their children off at school. These actions are causing widespread fear in our communities; children are afraid to go to school for fear they might come back to an empty home. Reports are on the rise of immigrants missing doctor appointments, dropping cases against their abusers, and avoiding basic social services. This bill will codify and expand DHS’s sensitive locations policy, and keep our communities safe.”
This legislation is also co-sponsored by Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act requires that, except in special circumstances, ICE agents receive prior approval from a supervisor before engaging in enforcement actions within 1000 feet of a sensitive location, such as: schools, hospitals and health clinics, places of worship, organizations assisting crime victims, and organizations that provide services to children. The legislation also requires that ICE agents receive annual training and report annually regarding enforcement actions in these locations.
The 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.