HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal introduced new legislation to prevent immigration officers from deporting people living in the country illegally as immigration arrests are expected to start Sunday.
The new legislation aims to hold the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency accountable if they violate their own policies of generally avoiding enforcement in safe areas where immigrants can seek refuge like churches, schools and hospitals.
"Today we also say to ICE you cannot invade places of worship, schools, hospitals, doctor's offices, police stations in Connecticut," Blumenthal said outside of the U.S. District Courthouse in Hartford. "We stand here in the shadow of the ICE office to say we will stand with undocumented immigrants who have lived here for decades, working hard, paying taxes, raising families and giving back to our community, breaking no laws."
John Mohan, public affairs officer for the department in the New England area, said he could not comment on legislation but did confirm ICE's policy to refrain from entering into sensitive areas such as schools, hospitals and places of worship.
He also wrote in an email to The Associated Press their policy is intended to guide ICE officers' and agents' actions when enforcing federal law at or focused on sensitive locations and to ensure that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.
On the department's website it states enforcement actions may occur at sensitive locations in limited circumstances but will generally be avoided.
"There have been repeated and countless instances of ICE disregarding its own written policies," Blumenthal said. "That's why we need to make these policies law."
David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said in the past immigration officers have tried to go around their own guidelines.
"Almost exactly a year ago Danbury was involved in something we thought was very, very unethical," McGuire said. "There was a person going to a courthouse in Danbury and ultimately was confronted by immigration and fled and he was hit by a motor vehicle."
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin in 2017 also condemned actions taken where ICE officials wore jackets with "police" on them trying to blend in as local law enforcement.
McGuire added that most Connecticut communities are supportive of immigrants but asked them to be vigilant and to know their rights.
Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation in June into law that further expands the TRUST Act which limits cooperation between immigration officers and local police. On Friday, his office released a state toolkit for families fearing deportation.
The state's Family Preparedness Plan includes a guide to help assist families who have concerns about immigration enforcement particularly in regards to the possibility of the deportation to detainment of guardians or parents of children.
"We will work to protect and defend every family in Connecticut because this is who we are as a state and as a country," said Attorney General William Tong in an emailed statement.
The new legislation introduced Thursday is sponsored by 14 democratic senators including presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Amy Klobuchar but could face a tough time passing the Republican-controlled Senate and Blumenthal added it may have easier passage in the Democratic-led House first.
"I hope this legislation sends a message to ICE that a failure to follow their own policies will mean legislation that punishes them," Blumenthal said. "This legislation has legs now, it will have even stronger legs if ICE does as anticipated on Sunday and embarks on these massive arrests and raids that may well invade sensitive spaces."
Chris Ehrmann is a corps member for Report for America , a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for Connecticut. The AP is solely responsible for all content.