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|1/31: Immigration authorities detail plan for courthouse arrests
Released 13 March 2018  By Elliot Spagat - AP
Immigration authorities detail plan for courthouse arrests
Elliot Spagat - AP
January 31, 2018
SAN DIEGO — Federal immigration authorities formalized a policy
Wednesday to send deportation agents to federal, state and local
courthouses to make arrests, dismissing complaints from judges and
advocacy groups that it instills fear among crime victims, witnesses and
The two-page directive from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
said it will enter courthouses only for specific targets, such as
convicted criminals, gang members, public safety threats and immigrants
who have been previously deported or ordered to leave. Family, friends
and witnesses won’t be picked up for deportation but ICE leaves a caveat
for “special circumstances.”
The policy, signed by ICE acting director Thomas Homan, says immigration
agents should generally avoid arrests in non-criminal areas of the
court, like family court and small claims, unless it supervisor
ICE — in a not-so-subtle jab at “sanctuary cities” that limit work with
immigration authorities — said “increasing unwillingness of some
jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the safe and orderly transfer of
targeted aliens inside their prisons and jails has necessitated
additional at-large arrests.”
Immigration agents made courtroom arrests under the Obama
administration, but the pace appears to have picked up under President
Donald Trump, whose administration has seen a roughly 40 percent surge
in arrests overall and has casted a much wider net.
In March, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye
asked ICE to stay out of her courts, writing, “Courthouses should not be
used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration
On Wednesday, Cantil-Sakauye sounded modestly encouraged: “If followed
correctly, this written directive is a good start. It’s essential that
we protect the integrity of our state court justice system and protect
the people who use it.”
Washington state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst wrote in
March that ICE’s presence was “deeply troubling because they impede the
fundamental mission of our courts, which is to ensure due process and
access for everyone, regardless of their immigration status.”
Sarah Mehta, a human rights research with the American Civil Liberties
Union, said the new policy is helpful to understand ICE’s self-imposed
limitations — despite exceptions allowed — but says may have come too
late with fear already spread.
“A lot of the damage has been done over the last year,” she said.
ICE reaffirmed its 2014 policy is in place to avoid deportation arrests
at “sensitive locations,” including schools, daycares, hospitals, places
of worship, funerals, weddings rallies and public demonstrations.
Courthouses have never been part of that list.
Homan said metal detectors at courthouse entrances provide more safety
“We’re not going to do it in the courtroom but to me it’s safer,” Homan
said in an interview in November. “It makes sense to arrest a criminal
in a criminal courthouse.”
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