Law seeks to ban ICE agents from schools, churches

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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WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 7: The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen on a law enforcement vehicle in Washington, United States on March 7, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer stands in the TSA pre-check area at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The TSA, part of the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reported seizing a record number of firearms at U.S. airports in 2015, a 20 precent increase over 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer operates an x-ray machine in the TSA pre-check area at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The TSA, part of the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reported seizing a record number of firearms at U.S. airports in 2015, a 20 precent increase over 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Prohibited items are displayed as they sit in a voluntary abandoned property bin in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pre-check area at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. The TSA, part of the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reported seizing a record number of firearms at U.S. airports in 2015, a 20 precent increase over 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sign stands at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Financing for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to lapse after Friday and the agency would face a partial shutdown unless Congress provides new money. More than 200,000 government employees deemed essential at DHS, including TSA officers, would still have to report to their posts, even though their pay would stop unless Congress finds a solution. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers check passenger's identification at a security checkpoint at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Financing for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to lapse after Friday and the agency would face a partial shutdown unless Congress provides new money. More than 200,000 government employees deemed essential at DHS, including TSA officers, would still have to report to their posts, even though their pay would stop unless Congress finds a solution. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 02: A sign directs travelers to a security checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at O'Hare Airport on June 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Department of Homeland Security said that the acting head of the TSA would be replaced following a report that airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly all of the tests that an undercover team conducted at airports around the country. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The entrance to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Cyber Crimes Center is seen in this U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) building in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. on July 21, 2015. Courtesy Josh Denmark/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
$506,057 of the more than a $1-million collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Laredo, Texas port of entry in two separate southbound enforcement actions is seen after being seized in this undated handout photo released by CBP on July 27, 2010. On July 22, CBP officers seized $506,057 in undeclared cash from a 36-year-old male Mexican citizen from Brookshire, Texas driving south into Mexico. The second money seizure occurred on July 25 as CBP Field Operations Officers and Border Patrol (BP) agents seized 50 bundles containing $607,629 in undeclared U.S.currency from a 33 year-old Mexican citizen driving south into Mexico from Houston, Texas. The drivers were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents for further investigation. REUTERS/U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
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MORE ICE Agents Nab Father While Dropping Daughter Off At School

"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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