Democratic leaders of the California Legislature are seeking clarification of federal immigration enforcement policy after round-ups of undocumented immigrants earlier this month sparked renewed fears of increased deportation raids under the Trump administration.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Monday jointly sent a Freedom of Information Act request to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asking for documents outlining national or California ICE field office policies regarding “sensitive locations” like churches, schools and hospitals; access for detainees to legal counsel and other visitors; and treatment of individuals registered under a federal program temporarily deferring deportation of those brought to the country illegally as children.
“The lives and physical safety of many thousands of Californians – citizens and immigrants, documented and undocumented – depend upon knowing this information,” de León and Rendon wrote in their request. “Moreover, the fear of possible ICE enforcement activity in sensitive spaces prevents Californians from accessing services, including education, medical and law enforcement assistance – that may be critical to their well-being or the well-being of their children.”
Both legislative leaders represent parts of Los Angeles County, which was among the targets of a sweeping five-day operation earlier this month in which ICE detained 161 people.
De León and Rendon are also asking for information to verify whether the enforcement activity was planned before President Donald Trump took office, how many individuals were arrested and for what previous crimes, and how many of those have since been deported.
“While ICE provided limited and delayed information to the press, our constituents were still left with many unanswered questions,” they wrote. “The result has led to increased confusion and fear in many communities.”
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said some of the information that the legislative leaders are seeking is already publicly available. She provided a link to the agency’s policy on sensitive locations, which states that enforcement will not occur there unless there is an exceptional circumstance like an imminent threat to life, and a fact sheet about the Southern California operation, which breaks down the countries of origin, cities of arrest and prior criminal convictions of the detainees by category.
“ICE has always sought to be transparent,” Kice said. “Some information may need to be redacted for privacy reasons...but all of those requests will be thoroughly reviewed.”
David Snyder, executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition, noted that it was odd for political officials to be sending a Freedom of Information Act request, suggesting that they had tried and failed to get what they wanted through regular channels of communication with ICE.
Snyder said the records they are seeking could be heavily redacted or exempted from disclosure if they are considered part of an ongoing investigation.
“To the extent those actions have concluded, their argument for why they should receive those document is stronger,” he said. “What they are asking for is not ridiculous.”