ICE ignored California state law and arrested immigrants at courthouses

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have reportedly arrested two people at a Northern California courthouse, ignoring a recently introduced state law barring immigration agents from making arrests at such facilities.

According to The Los Angeles Times, ICE made the arrests on Tuesday at the Sonoma County Superior Court.

In a statement, the agency acknowledged California’s new state law, with David Jennings, ICE field office director in San Francisco, saying: “Our officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws to remove criminal aliens from our communities.”

California’s state laws, ICE said, cannot overwrite federal laws and “will not govern the conduct of federal officers acting pursuant to duly enacted laws passed by Congress that provide the authority to make administrative arrests of removable aliens inside the United States,” he said.

Condemning the arrests, Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi said in an interview with the Press Democrat that ICE’s actions would “put total fear in the community.”

“People aren’t going to come to court. Victims will refuse to show up,” Pozzi said. “Witnesses will refuse to show up…cases will have to get dismissed.”

Pozzi had reportedly worked with Democratic California Rep. Mike Thompson’s office to obtain the identities of the two people who were arrested. However, she said she was unable to make them public due to attorney-client privilege rules.

In a statement to Press Democrat, Thompson said the courthouse arrests would put everyone at risk when it comes to public safety.

“If the immigrant community feels less safe and afraid, they are less willing to communicate and witnesses [are] less likely to come forward,” Thompson said. “That puts all of us at risk.”

ICE’s disregard for California’s state laws comes amid an apparent effort to target sanctuary cities and states that seek to prevent federal immigration agents from making arrests at places like courthouses, schools and churches, in addition to preventing local law enforcement from working with federal agents.

Recently, the agency came under fire over plans to bring agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) to help enforce immigration law in sanctuary cities across the country.

With the BORTAC unit receiving specialized training in areas such as advanced weapon skills and defensive tactics, immigration activists and politicians have condemned the plan, accusing the federal government of seeking to punish sanctuary states and cities by ramping up enforcement tactics.

A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents early on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. ICE is reportedly ignoring California’s state laws barring the agency from making arrests at courthouses.John Moore/Getty

However, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have argued that the decision had more to do with a lack of resources than an effort to stoke fear in immigrant communities.

“ICE is utilizing CBP to supplement enforcement activity in response to the resource challenges stemming from sanctuary city policies,” Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said in a statement recently provided toNewsweek.

“As we have noted for years, in jurisdictions where we are not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, our officers are forced to make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities. This effort requires a significant amount of additional time and resources. When sanctuary cities release these criminals back to the street, it increases the occurrence of preventable crimes, and more importantly, preventable victims,” Albence said.

In a separate statement, a DHS spokesperson said “the crisis at the border affects communities throughout the United States and has a huge impact on ICE.”

“The crisis at the border led to a significant increase in the number of non-detained cases which surpassed 3.2 million in FY19, up from 2.6 million in FY18 and 2.4 million in FY17,” they explained.

“With 5,300 [ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations] law enforcement officers—some of whom were detailed to the border—ICE does not have sufficient resources to effectively manage the sustained increase in non-detained cases which is exacerbated by the rise of sanctuary jurisdictions.

“The CBP agents and officers who are being detailed to help ICE come from a number of different sectors and job positions. While some of them are trained in tactical operations, that is one of the many areas of training. These officers have also been trained in routine immigration enforcement actions which is what they have been asked to do.”

*story by NewsWeek