Shortly after Senators demanded answers regarding immigration enforcement actions at schools, courthouses, churches, and hospitals, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was arrested from her hospital bed
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Following reports that a young girl with cerebral palsy was detained on her way to receive surgery, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led a group of sixteen Senators in calling for an investigation into ongoing violations of federal policies regarding immigration enforcement at sensitive locations like schools, hospitals, and religious institutions.
The Senators’ letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Customs and Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan details the reported detention of a 10-year-old girl 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.
“If these reports are accurate, these actions are not only horrifying—they are also an egregious violation of established Department policy,” the Senators wrote. “We ask that the Department launch an investigation into possible violations of the sensitive locations policy.”
In October, following a National Public Radio report on the parents of a two-month-old baby who were apprehended at a hospital while seeking lifesaving medical care for their son, Blumenthal and a group of twenty Senators wrote Duke to seek answers about the Department’s current immigration enforcement policies. The Senators have not yet received a response to their inquiry.
Blumenthal is the author of legislation in the Senate to prevent immigration enforcement officers from taking enforcement actions at sensitive locations. 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 social services without fear of deportation. The legislation is based on an amendment that Blumenthal included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013.
Today’s letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Al Franken (D-MN).
The full text of the Senators’ letter is available here and copied below.
November 13, 2017
The Honorable Elaine Duke
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20528
The Honorable Kevin McAleenan
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20229
Dear Acting Secretary Duke and Acting Commissioner McAleenan:
We write to follow up on our previous inquiry regarding reports of violations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) policies on enforcement actions at sensitive locations.
On October 17, we wrote to share our concerns about reports of immigration enforcement agents apprehending undocumented immigrants at or near sensitive locations, such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship. As you know, these arrests run contrary to existing policy. A 2013 CBP memorandum, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Enforcement Actions at or Near Certain Community Locations, limits CBP’s ability to conduct enforcement actions at or focused on a sensitive location unless exigent circumstances exist or prior approval is obtained. This CBP memorandum resembles a 2011 ICE memorandum that lays out similar rules.
Since our letter, a new alleged violation of the policy has come to light. On the morning of October 24, R.M.H., a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, and her cousin were on their way to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, where R.M.H. was scheduled to receive necessary gallbladder surgery. According to news reports and an October 31 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, they were stopped by Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint between their home and the hospital. After questioning them for about 30 minutes, the agents notified them that R.M.H. would be processed for deportation after the surgery and began following them to the hospital. There, armed agents kept watch at the door before allegedly arresting her directly from her hospital bed. R.M.H. was detained under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement before being released on November 3.
If these reports are accurate, these actions are not only horrifying—they are also an egregious violation of established Department policy. As you know, CBP rules bar agents from conducting an arrest inside a hospital except in an “exigent circumstance,” such as when national security or public safety is threatened, or with prior written approval. According to the lawsuit, neither of those conditions were met. There were no indications that R.M.H. or others were in danger, as R.M.H.’s cousin had papers that gave her authority to transport R.M.H. to the hospital. In addition, CBP agents also reportedly did not obtain a warrant or their supervisor’s approval for the arrest. When lawyers from the hospital asked them to leave, they refused to do so.
We ask that the Department launch an investigation into possible violations of the sensitive locations policy. We also ask that you respond to these questions within 30 days:
We look forward to your timely response.
 U.S. Customs and Border Protection Enforcement Actions at or Near Certain Community Locations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 18, 2013, http://foiarr.cbp.gov/streamingWord.asp?i=1251.
 Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, October 24, 2011, https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf.
 R.M.H. are initials of the minor used for her privacy.
 R.M.H. v Lloyd Complaint, American Civil Liberties Union, October 31, 2017, https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/rmh-v-lloyd-complaint; Marwa Eltagouri, A 10-year-old immigrant was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. She was detained on the way, Washington Post, October 27, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/10/26/a-10-year-old-immigrant-was-rushed-to-the-hospital-in-an-ambulance-she-was-detained-on-the-way/.