Today, Representatives José E. Serrano (D-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) led a letter to the Trump Administration’s Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke – to express their concerns over reports of repeated violations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officials of existing policies regarding enforcement at “sensitive locations” (i.e. churches, hospitals, and schools, among others). The letter was signed by a total of 84 Democratic Members of Congress.

The letter points out the case of Irma Francisca Quiñones Alamillo and Oscar Enrique Sánchez Islas, who were recently targeted, questioned, and taken away by ICE agents while waiting for their infant baby to receive emergency surgery is an example of the type of alarming enforcement actions that are undermining the health, safety, and welfare of immigrants. Both ICE and CBP have policies in places limiting their enforcement activities at like hospitals, schools, and churches, but since January, have appeared to violate them in numerous instances. In the letter, the members urge the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to enforce their own policies and to provide information on the training ICE and CBP agents receive about these policies, the mechanisms to report violations of these memos, and the consequences for these violations.   

“ICE and CBP should not target vulnerable immigrant families at sensitive locations such as hospitals and schools. This latest report shows that ICE and CBP enforcement actions are endangering lives and undermining the health, safety, and welfare of  immigrants.  Clearly, ICE agents feel empowered by their superiors and the Trump Administration to target immigrants even in what have been stipulated as off-limits locations. The Department of Homeland Security needs to take action at the highest level to stop this behavior, and to ensure accountability when it does occur,” said Congressman José E. Serrano.

“We believe that ICE agents should follow the rules and regulations that have been issued by the leadership of the agency,” the lawmakers wrote. “While ICE agents have a job to do, agents must perform their job in a manner that protects the health, safety, and welfare of those involved, regardless of immigration status. Undermining the ability of individuals to travel to a hospital to seek emergency care for themselves or their family members violates not just the policy memorandum, but the basic values that justify these limitations. With these increasing reports of ICE activities at sensitive locations, we are seriously concerned that enforcement actions like the one mentioned above will decrease the safety and health of citizens and non-citizens in our nation.  ICE enforcement efforts at sensitive locations have a chilling effect on individuals’ ability to seek basic necessities like health services, schooling, and religious worship.  Absent an unpublicized change in policy, we also believe that the above case raises serious questions about the Department’s willingness to enforce its internal policies.”

October 10, 2017

 

The Honorable Elaine C. Duke
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC  20528

Dear Acting Secretary Duke,

We write to express our deep concerns over ongoing reports of violations of current Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies regarding enforcement actions at sensitive locations.  We request that the Department clarify several important issues in order help the public understand the Department’s continuing commitment to these policies. We believe much more must be done by the agency to avoid unnecessary panic and concern among immigrants to this country- both documented and undocumented.

As you know, in 2011, the then-Director of ICE issued a policy memo limiting enforcement actions at sensitive locations.[1]  A nearly identical memo was also issued by the then-Deputy Commissioner of CBP.[2]  In both cases, the non-exclusive list of sensitive locations includes churches, hospitals, and schools, among others.  The memos also include a number of actions that constitute enforcement, including: arrests, interviews, searches, and surveillance.[3]  Although a new Administration was sworn-in in January, your department reaffirmed the ongoing applicability of these memorandum in February.[4]  

Unfortunately, since January, many of us have heard of instances where this policy is not being followed.  In particular, we are troubled by the recent case of Irma Francisca Quiñones Alamillo and Oscar Enrique Sánchez Islas.  While at a hospital with their two month old child, Irma and Oscar were questioned by CBP agents, and later taken away for processing while their infant (a United States citizen) was awaiting emergency surgery.  These actions delayed urgent medical care, as the doctors did not want to operate without the parents present, and caused significant mental anguish to Irma and Oscar.  There was no justification for these actions, which are a clear and egregious violation of the policy memos.  

Both CBP and ICE agents should follow the rules and regulations that have been issued by the leadership of the agency.  While these employees have a job to do, agents must perform their responsibilities in a manner that protects the health, safety, and welfare of those involved, regardless of immigration status.  Undermining the ability of individuals to travel to a hospital to seek emergency care for themselves or their family members violates not just the policy memorandum, but the basic values that justify these limitations. 

With these increasing reports of enforcement activities at sensitive locations, we are seriously concerned that enforcement actions like the one mentioned above will decrease the safety and health of citizens and non-citizens in our nation.  ICE and CBP enforcement efforts at sensitive locations have a chilling effect on individuals’ ability to seek basic necessities like health services, schooling, and religious worship.  Absent an unpublicized change in policy, the above case raises serious questions about the Department’s willingness to enforce its internal policies. 

We request that the Department provide us with additional information about the effectiveness of the current mechanisms in place to protect individuals at sensitive locations. Towards that end, we would like answers to the following questions:

  1. What mechanism currently exists to report violations of CBP and ICE’s sensitive locations policy memos?  Who investigates these violations?
  2. Does the Department keep statistics on complaints involving sensitive locations? Does the Department keep statistics on enforcement actions at sensitive locations? Please provide those statistics if they exist.
  3. What training do ICE and CBP employees receive regarding appropriate practices at sensitive locations?
  4. What consequences occur if ICE and CBP agents are found to have violated this, or any other, internal ICE policy?
  5. In the case of Irma Francisca Quiñones Alamillo and Oscar Enrique Sánchez Islas, did CBP agents act in accordance with the sensitive locations memo?

ICE and CBP should continue to follow their current policies with regard to sensitive locations, and should do more to ensure that their agents are aware of these policies, their justification, and the consequences for their violation.  We look forward to your response.


[1] Memorandum on Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations, Office of the Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (October 24, 2011) available at https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf

[2]Memorandum on U.S. Customs and Border Protection Actions at or Near Certain Community Locations,  Deputy Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (January 18, 2013) available at https://foiarr.cbp.gov/streamingWord.asp?i=1251.

[3] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Memo at 1.

[4] Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement, Office of the Press Secretary, Department of Homeland Security (February 21, 2017), Question 26, available at dhs.gov/news/2017/02/21/qa-dhs-implementation-executive-order-border-security-and-immigration-enforcement.

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