WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that they are cosponsoring legislation to prevent immigration agents from conducting enforcement operations at sensitive locations like elementary schools where parents are dropping off their children, health care centers that provide critical services to the community, or places of worship without prior approval and exigent circumstances. The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act codifies the Department of Homeland Security’s existing policies and expands on those policies to ensure that immigrants are able to access education, criminal justice, and essential services without fear of deportation.
In March, Udall and Heinrich demanded assurances from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan that all people in New Mexico can continue to receive health care and other essential services free from threats of deportation and other enforcement activities. Udall and Heinrich have received many troubling reports from New Mexicans who say they are afraid to report crimes or seek critical services at schools, churches, and hospitals due to accounts of ICE agents staking out and conducting enforcement operations at these locations. Homan pledged to the senators that ICE will not conduct such operations at sensitive locations, provided that ICE determines there is no urgent national security threat.
“President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric have instilled deep and profound fear in immigrant communities in New Mexico and across the country. That is unconscionable and unacceptable,” Udall said. “I’ve heard from too many New Mexicans who say they are missing doctor’s appointments, keeping their kids out of school, and refraining from going to places of worship because they’re afraid of having their families broken apart. Maintaining the carefully cultivated trust that our law enforcement officers, doctors, teachers, administrators, and other officials have built with immigrant communities keeps people safe, and ensures that everyone can receive the services they and their families need.”
“The Trump administration's misguided immigration enforcement has left our communities in New Mexico living in fear,” Heinrich said. “Given the limited resources ICE has, the administration should prioritize violent criminals, not hardworking immigrants who are contributing to our nation and looking to make a better life for themselves and their families. We must ensure that places like schools, courthouses, and hospitals remain safe places, not places of fear.”
The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act requires that, except in special circumstances, ICE agents receive prior approval from a supervisor when there are exigent circumstances before engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations, such as schools, hospitals and health clinics, places of worship, organizations assisting crime victims, and organizations that provide services to children, pregnant women, victims of crime or abuse, or individuals with mental or physical disabilities. The legislation also requires that ICE agents receive annual training and report annually regarding enforcement actions in these locations.
Udall and Heinrich have asked New Mexicans to contact their Senate offices if they have reports of ICE agents conducting enforcement operations at locations where people receive essential care or services, such as schools, churches, and hospitals.
Contact information for Udall and Heinrich's offices can be found below: