In a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye asked federal immigration agents to stop lurking around courthouses in order to arrest undocumented 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 in the letter, as reported by Reuters. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration law.”
An executive order signed by President Donald Trump greatly expanded the list of undocumented immigrants who are subject to deportation and includes anyone who has been suspected of committing a crime or is perceived as a threat. NBC News reports that counties around the country have raised objections about the “raids” conducted by ICE agents in or around courthouses, including this ask from Multnomah County in Oregon, urging the public to report ICE raids at courthouses.
In February, agents in El Paso, Texas arrested a woman at a courthouse where she had been seeking a protective order for domestic abuse. On Wednesday, criminal defense lawyer Octavio Chaidez’s client was arrested inside a courthouse in Pasadena, where he had just finished a criminal court appearance. ICE agents “swooped in,” confirmed his client’s name and then placed him under arrest.
Speaking to NBC, Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the Western reigonal office of ICE said “While ICE does arrest targets at courthouses, generally it’s only after investigating officers have exhausted other options.”
Cantil-Sakuyae’s letter reinforced the fact that courthouses exist “to ensure fairness and protect legal rights.” Creating an atmosphere of fear in and around the courts makes matters worse. “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 wrote. “They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice.”