April 3, 2017 Top Democratic lawmakers proposed legislation to
turn guidelines established for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers conducting searches, arrests or surveillance at certain locations into law.
Under the current guidelines, ICE policy already categorizes schools, hospitals, places of worship, funerals or weddings and public rallies as “sensitive locations.” If passed, the bill would vastly expand that location list, adding bus stops with children, offices for public assistance and members of Congress and all federal, state and local courthouses.
On Friday, U.S. House Democrats from Oregon, New York and Virginia proposed a bill titled the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act. One of the proposed legislation’s sponsors, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., slammed the agency’s policy during a roundtable discussion on Friday:
“Recent ICE action targeting immigrants has been aggressive and mean-spirited, and it does not improve the safety of our communities.”
Last week, acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director, Thomas Homan said the agency has no plans to stop arresting immigrants at courthouses. The ICE director’s comments were in response to a question from a Holocaust survivor during a town hall on immigration policy in Sacramento, California.
A growing number of state and local leaders from law enforcement and the judiciary have expressed opposition to ICE agents presence at courthouses. Some judges have urged ICE to targeting immigrants at courthouses because they say it could undermine public trust.
Despite New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio’s promise that NYC will remain a sanctuary city — the New York Daily News reports that New York Police Department officials have been notifying ICE officials when illegal immigrants are due in criminal court to face deportation.
In letters addressed to U.S. Attorney General Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, California and Washington state judges voiced concerns about the presence of ICE agents at courthouses, arguing it discourages immigrants from serving as witnesses and undermines prosecutions.
Some Chicago Red Line riders took to Twitter on Valentines Day to report ICE agents conducting searches and checking ID’s at the city’s Addison stop. An ICE spokeswoman slammed local news for reporting the story in spite of eyewitnesses accounts — including photos, for causing undue alarm in the already edgy public.
In contrast to studies suggesting sanctuary cities are actually safer, AG Sessions and Secretary Kelly issued their own letter asserting that sanctuary cities “threaten public safety, rather than enhance it.”
Cynthia Hodges holds a M.A. in Political Science from NEIU in Chicago, Illinois and a Post-Grad Professional Certificate in Disaster and Terrorism Management from University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill. In addition to a successful writing career, Cynthia is in the process of writing a book on the role of private security guards as first responders in the post 9/11 America. "My career has been a balance of security and education, and my passion for Homeland Security while protecting individual's Constitutional rights has grown as a result of the two."