THE chief justice of California’s Supreme Court is urging the administration of President Donald Trump to cease arresting undocumented immigrants at the state’s courthouses.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Thursday, March 16, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote how “deeply concerned” she was following various reports in which federal agents would “appear to be stalking” undocumented immigrants at courthouses before detaining them.
“Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” Cantil-Sakauye said, noting how courthouses are supposed to be safe spaces for individuals to seek justice.
While she did not elaborate on specific cases, she said “the vast majority of [undocumented immigrants] pose no risk to public safety” and called the policies to wait at courthouses and make arrests “neither safe nor fair.”
She suggested that these actions would have an “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.”
“They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice,” the letter continued. “I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California’s courthouses.”
Apart from California, similar arrests at courthouses have been reportedly made in Oregon and Texas, as part of the crackdown on immigration since Trump took office in January. One of his early executive orders was to prioritize removing deportable immigrants who have been convicted of any criminal offense.
In a report by the Sacramento Bee, Cathal Conneely, a public information officer for the Judicial Council of California, said the letter from California’s chief justice comes after other judges, private attorneys and Legal Aid lawyers shared some instances with her.
“The chief justice is not in any way questioning the right or authority of the U.S. attorney general or the Department of Homeland Security to do what they’re doing, she’s just raising concern with the judicial branch of California that this is taking place within courthouses and courtrooms,” Conneely told the newspaper.
ICE observes “sensitive locations,” wherein agents do not implement enforcement actions at places schools or churches. However, courthouses and courtrooms are not covered.
“While ICE does arrest targets at courthouses, generally it’s only after investigating officers have exhausted other options,” Virginia Kice, an agency spokeswoman said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the White House requested that Congress provide an additional $3 billion in 2017 to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hire more border patrol agents and ICE law enforcement personnel, increase detention and deportation forces, and plan the construction of the wall between the U.S.-Mexico border.
Community organizations and immigration advocates are also ramping up their efforts to ensure that immigrant communities are aware of their rights should they be stopped by an ICE agent, whether at home, at the workplace or in public.
Some of the protections include the rights to remain silent, demand a search warrant, and refusal to sign or show any documents without a lawyer. (Christina M. Oriel / AJPress)