Trump may not have kept many of his campaign promises, but when he said that he would be tough on immigration, he meant it. Border Patrol agents have more and more leeway now to track undocumented immigrants, even in situations where in the past it never used to happen. And in one instance, this even meant that Border Patrol agents arrested parents awaiting their baby's surgery — a surgery that was both critical and straightforward, except that it forced the parents to go through a Border Control checkpoint.
NPR reported that undocumented immigrants Oscar and Irma Sanchez needed to travel from their home in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to a children's hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, to get lifesaving surgery for their son Isaac. While they initially told their health care providers that they wouldn't be able to get there because of the Border Control checkpoint, a Border Patrol agent turned up while they were deciding what to do at the hospital, perhaps tipped off by a nurse. The agent said that the family could be escorted through the checkpoint, but that they would be arrested upon their arrival in Corpus Christi — an arrangement that they agreed to, because it would get their son the surgery.
And while their son did eventually get the surgery, Oscar and Irma Sanchez were tailed by Border Control agents in the hospital the entire time. Before the surgery took place, the parents were taken away (at separate times, so that someone could always stay with Isaac) to be fingerprinted and put on the register of people to be deported. NPR reported that Isaac is doing nicely after the surgery, but Oscar and Irma are now living in fear that they might be forced to leave their home in Texas and their four children, who are all American citizens.
This chilling case is part of a pattern that has emerged with the Trump administration so far. When Obama was the president, there were certain sensitive places where it was simply understood that undocumented immigrants could go safely in the knowledge that Border Control would not apprehend them there. These places included health care facilities, places of worship, political demonstrations, and schools, just to name a few — but now, it seems, this tacit policy no longer applies.
The Sanchezes aren't the only ones to feel the effects of this change, either. ICE conducted a raid in Virginia in February and ended up arresting six undocumented immigrants who had come to a church-run hypothermia shelter to escape the cold. There was an outcry about ICE operating in one of these so-called safe spaces, but they claimed that the arrests had not happened on church property, so the move was okay.
In another case, a woman waiting for surgery to remove a brain tumor was taken to an ICE detention center directly after being deemed stable by her physician. And only weeks later, a father dropping off his daughter at school was arrested, a violation of that old sensitive locations policy that shocked the entire school and got teachers talking to their students about potential plans for if their undocumented parents got deported.
In response to all of this, a group of Democratic congressmen are introducing the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, a bill that would codify these sensitive locations and the protections that they provide into federal law, on top of adding a couple more to the existing list. The way the laws are being enforced right now, New York Rep. Jose Serrano told NPR, "violates human decency."
Border Patrol, Serrano said, are "pushing the envelope to the point where they're trying to find out how far they can go," and the people who are suffering for it are some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
Isaac Sanchez got his surgery, at least, but it came at a price. Neither of his parents has a criminal record, and now their lives have been destabilized. This, apparently, is what the Trump administration meant when they said that they would be tough on immigration.