Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials are apparently stalking courthouses to arrest undocumented immigrants.
California's Supreme Court chief justice wrote a scathing letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to ask the federal authorities to stop using courthouses as “bait” to detain suspected immigrants.
“I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” she wrote. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration law.”
President Donald Trump’s deportation crackdown has not only made it easier for authorities to detain immigrants, but has also expedited the removal process for detained individuals.
“Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives,” the letter continued. “Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.”
Last month, ICE agents in El Paso, Texas, arrested 33-year-old Irvin González as she was sitting in a waiting room at a courthouse where a judge was scheduled to hear her request for a protective order against an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Earlier this week, federal agents detained another immigrant at the Los Angeles Superior Court in Pasadena.
Criminal defense lawyer Octavio Chaidez said his client had just finished a criminal court appearance when four agents approached them, confirmed his name and took him away.
“It was very shocking because it occurred inside of a courthouse, and the reason for the detention had nothing to do with that proceeding,” he said, adding his client has no criminal history.
“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,” she concluded. “They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary's ability to provide equal access to justice.”