On Thursday, chief justice of California’s Supreme Court added her voice to the mounting criticism of law enforcement detaining immigrants at courthouses. She accused federal immigration authorities of “stalking” local courthouses
Lurking around courthouses:
State Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, asking the federal government to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants at courthouses in California.
She wrote: “Enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair. They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice.”
State and local authorities in other jurisdictions, such as Multnomah County, Oregon, and El Paso, Texas, objected publicly to what they have called “raids” by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement inside courthouses or on courthouse grounds.
Spokeswoman for ICE’s Western regional office, Virginia Kice, confirmed and defended the practice of detaining undocumented immigrants at courthouses in general. However, she said that the agency had no comment on Cantil-Sakauye’s letter.
She said: “While ICE does arrest targets at courthouses, generally it’s only after investigating officers have exhausted other options.” She continued saying that many local law enforcement agencies refuse to honor ICE detainer requests.
Those detained at or near courthouses have previous convictions and they would have been turned over to ICE upon their releases from jail, Kice said.
She added “When criminal custody transfers occur inside the secure confines of a jail or prison, it’s far safer for everyone involved, including our officers and the person who’s being arrested.”
Impact on victims’ safety:
On February 9th, a particularly high-profile detention occurred at the El Paso County Courthouse. A security video recorded ICE agents arresting Irvin González, a transgender woman from Mexico, who was at the courthouse to seek a protective order against her alleged abuser.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, stressed that victims of crime should be able to feel safe inside a courthouse. Cantil-Sakauye sounded a similar warning in her letter.
“I am concerned about the impact on public trust and confidence in our state court system if the public feels that our state institutions are being used to facilitate other goals and objectives, no matter how expedient they may be,” she wrote.
The policy by the ICE mirrors promises President Donald Trump made during his campaign last year, but it’s not a new thing. Such operations have been drawing complaints from local officials for several years. In 2014, 20 members of the Wisconsin Legislature objected to the presence of ICE agents who were stopping and questioning Latinos inside county courthouses