Immigration law is quickly becoming a battleground between different approaches towards those entering our country. With the new administration’s efforts to hasten deportations, many states, including California, have established laws which protect immigrants from status inquiries while they are being questioned on unrelated matters. So called “sanctuary laws” allow for areas such as schools and hospitals to be safe for witnesses and victims who do not want to be molested by immigration officers during a moment of vulnerability.
ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency tasked with enforcing federal immigration laws, has still made it a habit to circumvent these laws by performing arrests in areas such as courthouses, where immigrants might find themselves for other reasons. Imagine showing up to pay a traffic fine, only to be arrested and detained by ICE officials who took advantage of the situation to lie in wait. This new practice has sparked outrage by public officials and attorneys who feel that this new practice jeopardizes due process.
ICE claims that sanctuary laws forced their hand, by preventing them from making arrests in areas such as county jails. However, the question remains as to how much freedom federal agents should have in state-run buildings where day-to-day affairs are underway. ICE operations in courthouses could have the consequence of scaring off potential witnesses and victims from coming forward and participating in due process. In an open letter to the federal government, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court expressed concerns about using courthouses as “bait” to catch immigrants.
There have been a number of answers to these new practices from the legislative branch as well. Bills such as SB 349 have been introduced as a response to growing concerns about ICE’s power. This bill, authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara, attempts to specifically limit federal agencies’ ability to make arrests while in state buildings such as courthouses. The bill is part of a trend among the California legislature to fight increasingly hard-line immigration policies coming from the federal government. Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill last month, citing concerns about “unforeseen consequences.” Suffice it to say that the battle between federal immigration law, state, and local interests will continue for the foreseeable future.
Federal immigration arrests and detainment issues can be complex and case-specific. If you or someone you know have any questions or concerns in regards to being arrested or detained, please contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer.
Sources and further reading:
New ICE Courthouse Directive
CA Supreme Court Open Letter to Federal Government
ICE Arrests in Courthouses:
Legislation to Stop ICE interference: