Picture: Paige Vickers

ICE’s Courthouse Arrests Undercut Democracy

Article in the New York Times
28 November, 2017

Justice is not served when it is not justice for all. Judges should not be prevented from accomplishing their important societal task, by mere administrative decisions. A justice system cannot function properly in a climate of fear. “Firewalls” between immigration enforcement and public services need to be established, if we are to see some trust restored that anyone – including undocumented migrants – can access justice, schools or medical treatment without fear of detection, detention and deportation

“Lawyers and judges in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington all reported in the first year of the Trump administration that immigration officials were breaking with tradition to descend upon their courthouses. Such arrests in New York have increased by 900 percent in 2017, according to the Immigrant Defense Project.

This is a deeply worrisome trend because arrests at courthouses don’t just derail the lives of the unsuspecting people who are detained, they threaten the very operation of our judicial system. Such arrests scare people away from the courts, keeping them, for example, from testifying at trials or seeking orders of protection. By using this tactic, the nation’s lead immigration law enforcement agency is undermining a pillar of our democracy.

That’s why California’s top judicial official asked the Trump administration to stop this practice. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the state’s chief justice, wrote in March to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the homeland security secretary. “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.”

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