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Senate Proposes Act to Protect Immigrants from Arrest in “Sensitive Locations”

aircraft-3507043_640-300x190After reports surfaced that undocumented immigrants were being arrested in a questionable manner in “sensitive locations,” a group of senators have introduced the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, strengthening existing immigration enforcement policies and providing greater protections to these individuals.

The bill comes as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents continue to detain undocumented immigrants as they seek medical care or accompany family members in healthcare facilities, despite existing policies protecting these facilities from such enforcement activities.

ICE and CPB classify hospitals, along with other medical facilities, churches, schools, and courthouses, as “sensitive locations,” which means that for all intents and purposes, they should be off-limits to immigration enforcement activities without prior approval or pressing circumstances.

There are nonetheless several reports of ICE making arrests at hospitals.

These protective policies at present remain only guidelines, and now legislators at both the Senate and House of Representatives are working on codifying and strengthening these policies. The lawmakers behind the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY).

A similar bill, the Immigration Safe Zones Act, has been introduced in Chicago as Senate Bill 35 and is awaiting Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature to go into effect. Immigrant rights activists have asserted the urgency of the bill, pushing Rauner to sign the bill as soon as he can.

“The Immigration Safe Zones act will simply create a layer of protection particularly in sensitive locations,” said Mony-Ruiz Velasco, who serves as Executive Director of PASO – West Suburban Action Project. “It’s in the best interest of all Illinois residents that those locations can be accessed safely.”

While these bills are still making the legislative rounds, Amy Peck from the National Law Review has put together a number of tips for patients, family members, and even hospital staff to follow.

  • Facilities and patients are advised to be ready with legal counsel before the expected enforcement activity.

Receptionists should be trained to contact an attorney immediately when ICE agents show up. Legal professionals are better equipped to deal with these sensitive situations and ensure that the rights of patients and facilities are upheld all throughout. Most major hospitals have in-house legal counsel, but individual patients would greatly benefit from having someone specifically representing their interests.

  • Facilities should also have assigned point persons to deal with ICE officers when they arrive.

These individuals, along with the identified legal counsel, should be among the first that receptionists get in touch with. Point persons should accompany ICE officers while they carry about their business within the facility, taking notes of relevant actions and statements all throughout. Point persons should not, however, obstruct the enforcement activity in any way.

If you want to learn more about your rights should you be involved in ICE’s campaign, don’t hesitate to talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm to discuss your options. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.