A California Supreme Court judge accused ICE agents of "stalking undocumented immigrants" at courthouses to make arrests and sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asking for the practice to stop.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote Thursday that she was "deeply concerned" that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents appeared to be using courthouses and courtrooms from San Francisco to Los Angeles as "bait" to arrest and deport illegal immigrants, reported the Sacramento Bee.
Cathal Conneely, a public information officer for the Judicial Council of California, told the Bee that Cantil-Sakauye has received information since January from lower court judges, private attorneys, and legal aid lawyers that ICE agents have been arresting people after court proceedings.
"Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety," Cantil-Sakauye's letter to Sessions and Kelly said. "Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.
"Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. … Most Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government, and I am concerned about the 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."
The Los Angeles Times said California, Arizona, Texas, and Colorado have all reported teams of uniformed and plain clothes ICE agents going into courtrooms or waiting outside court complexes to arrest immigrants.
ICE officials defended the tactic to the Times, saying arrests are made at courthouses as a last resort when all other options are no longer available.
Immigration activists, attorneys, and prosecutors told the Times that could prevent immigrants without legal status from appearing in court to testify as witnesses or answer warrants, which could endanger prosecutions.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the courthouse arrests have increased with the rising number local law enforcement agencies refusing to comply with its requests to detain suspects in county jails, reported the Times.
"In years past, most of these individuals would have been turned over to ICE by local authorities upon their release from jail based on ICE detainers," Kice told the Times. "Now that many law enforcement agencies no longer honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat."
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.