Law seeks to ban ICE agents from schools, churches

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Democratic lawmakers are looking to curb President Trump’s aggressive immigration crackdown by barring federal immigration enforcement at courthouses, school bus stops, and other locations where undocumented residents remain targets for deportation.

The Protective Sensitive Locations Act, introduced in the U.S. House late last week, would expand the definition of so-called “sensitive locations” — such as schools, hospitals, and churches — traditionally deemed off limits to federal agents by Immigration Customs and Enforcement, except in rare circumstances. The bill would also, for the first time, legally prohibit ICE from conducting arrests, interviews, searches, or surveillance in these areas.

The push comes amid growing fears that federal officials under Trump may begin to roll back many of the immigration enforcement limits set in place by the president’s predecessor Barack Obama. Dozens of raids and arrests documented in the first weeks of the new administration already signal a dramatic shift, lawmakers and immigration rights groups say.

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“Our communities are better and safer if all residents feel secure when accessing justice, seeking education and health care, or practicing their faith,” Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, one of the bill’s sponsors, said Friday. “Recent ICE action targeting immigrants has been aggressive and mean-spirited, and it does not improve the safety of our communities.”

During the Obama administration, ICE enacted a policy that directs its agents to avoid enforcement operations at these sensitive locations, which also include weddings, funerals, public demonstrations, and any organization that provides services to vulnerable populations. The policy, outlined in a 2011 memo, provides exceptions for unspecified public safety and national security threats, according to the agency’s website.

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The new measure seeks to broaden the class of sensitive locations outlines by ICE to include courthouses, homeless and domestic violence shelters, congressional district offices, DMVs, social security offices, and school bus stops, among other places. The bill would also codify ICE’s policy into law to ensure that it is not abused, violated, or simply discarded.

Meanwhile, reports of aggressive raids and arrests by ICE agents continue to send shockwaves across immigrant communities and their supporters nationwide. Some undocumented immigrants have been targeted and detained while dropping their children off at school or leaving church shelters. ICE has also swept up people at courthouses in Oregon, California, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, according to reports tracked by Vocativ, including a domestic violence victim seeking a restraining order against her allegedly abusive boyfriend.

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