Some States Work to Calm Immigrants’ Deportation Fears

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Amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, some city and state officials are trying to calm immigrants’ fears with legislation to prohibit arrests in courthouses, schools, workplaces and other spots where immigrants gather. The legal rationale for the proposals is not always clear, Stateline reports. State and local governments may not have the power to keep immigration agents from arresting people in courthouses or on public streets near churches and schools, where some recent arrests have been made. What is clear is that fear of deportation is keeping immigrants from sending children to school, showing up for medical appointments, and appearing in court as witnesses or for other reasons.

The tense situation is an unintended consequence of so-called sanctuary policies, under which cities and counties refuse to hold prisoners for possible deportation. In addition, some sheriffs question the legality of detainers, or requests from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold prisoners. The increased difficulty of arresting immigrants has driven ICE to make more raids in other places, including courthouses. “A lot of people are uneasy,” said State Rep. Jean Philippe Barros of Rhode Island. Barros has co-sponsored a bill that would bar schools, churches, hospitals and courthouses from allowing immigration arrests. Similar legislation has been proposed in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. One California bill would go a step further and block employers from allowing immigration agents onto work sites. In Congress, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), has co-sponsored a bill barring immigration arrests near schools, hospitals and churches, as well as motor vehicle offices, unless terrorism or some other emergency is involved. Democrats in the Senate have proposed a similar measure. Some states are moving in the other direction, seeking to outlaw any refusal to help federal immigration officials with deportations. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law last week that makes it a misdemeanor for a sheriff or police chief to refuse to help deport unauthorized immigrants.

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