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Senators ask for answers amid reports of immigration arrests at hospitals, schools and churches



Sheldon Whitehouse

“If these reports are accurate, these actions are not only horrifying—they are also an egregious violation of established Department policy,” wrote 16 United States Senators in response to reports that a young girl with cerebral palsy was detained by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on her way to receive surgery. “We ask that the Department launch an investigation into possible violations of the sensitive locations policy.”

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) led a group of  Senators in calling for an investigation into ongoing violations of federal policies regarding immigration enforcement at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and religious institutions.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan received the letter in response to the reported detention of a 10-year-old girl, identified as R.M.H. in the letter, who was stopped by immigration authorities on her way to the hospital for gallbladder surgery.  Armed agents later arrested her directly from her hospital bed as she was recovering from the surgery.

In the letter the Senators ask that they receive a response within 30 days to the following:

  • Did the arrest of R.M.H. occur at a “sensitive location,” as that term is defined in the above-referenced January 18, 2013 CBP memorandum?
  • Did CBP agents seek and receive written supervisory approval to arrest R.M.H. from the Chief Patrol Agent, Director of Field Operations, Director of Air and Marine Operations, or the Internal Affairs Special Agent in Charge?  If yes, which supervisors provided written approval for the arrest?
  • Was there an “exigent circumstance” that necessitated R.M.H’s arrest?  If so, what was it?
  • Did CBP agents deem that R.M.H. posed a threat to public safety?  If so, what threat did she pose?
  • Did CBP agents contemplate alternative measures in deciding whether and how to take custody of R.M.H.?  If so, what were those alternative measures?
  • Did CBP agents violate the CBP sensitive locations policy when they arrested R.M.H.?
  • After reviewing R.M.H.’s arrest, do you believe that CBP should have done anything differently?
  • Has the Department launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding R.M.H.’s arrest—particularly whether agents violated sensitive locations policy? If so, when will the investigation be completed?
  • What disciplinary action, if any, will the CBP agents face if the investigation finds that they violated the sensitive locations policy?
  • What are CBP’s policies and operating procedures regarding medical treatment cases necessitating transit through a Border Patrol checkpoint?
  • What are CBP’s policies and operating procedures regarding personnel on duty inside hospitals?

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The full letter can be read here.