Cal­i­for­nia jus­tice doesn’t want ar­rests in court

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The SAN FRAN­CISCO — chief jus­tice of the Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court asked fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents Thurs­day to stop mak­ing ar­rests at court­houses, say­ing “stalk­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants” at the fa­cil­i­ties thwarts peo­ple’s ac­cess to jus­tice.

Chief Jus­tice Tani G. Can­til-Sakauye wrote in a let­ter to top fed­eral of­fi­cials that she is con­cerned about re­cent re­ports of im­mi­gra­tion agents go­ing to the courts to track down im­mi­grants for ar­rest, say­ing the prac­tice will af­fect the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence in the court sys­tem.

“Court­houses should not be used as bait in the nec­es­sary en­force­ment of our coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion laws,” she wrote in the let­ter to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly, adding that crime and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims and wit­nesses all go to the courts seek­ing jus­tice and due process of the law.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment had no im­me­di­ate com­ment on the let­ter. A Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman also de­clined to com­ment.

It comes amid a se­ries of re­ports of ar­rests at court­houses in Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon and Texas as fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents have been called on to step up de­por­ta­tions un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Last month, im­mi­gra­tion agents in Texas ar­rested a wo­man at an El Paso court­house while she was ob­tain­ing a pro­tec­tion or­der against an al­leged abuser. The ar­rest sparked an out­cry from vic­tim ad­vo­cates, say­ing it would dis­suade oth­ers from com­ing for­ward to re­port abuse for fear of be­ing de­ported.

ICE also has made ar­rests in re­cent months at court­houses in Ore­gon and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

Court­houses can be seen as a rel­a­tively safe place for fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents to make ar­rests be­cause peo­ple pass through metal de­tec­tors to en­ter. But many ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants and vic­tims de­cry the prac­tice, say­ing im­mi­grants will be afraid to re­port crime or show up for hear­ings.

“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,” Can­til-Sakauye wrote. “They not only com­pro­mise our core value of fair­ness but they un­der­mine the ju­di­ciary’s abil­ity to pro­vide equal ac­cess to jus­tice.”

Sev­eral years ago, ad­vo­cates raised con­cerns about de­por­ta­tion agents mak­ing ar­rests at court­houses in Cal­i­for­nia’s Kern County. At that time, ICE said it would re­frain from mak­ing such ar­rests, ex­cept in “ex­i­gent cir­cum­stances.”

AP 2015

Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Tani G. Can­tilSakauye: “Court­houses should not be used as bait” for ar­rests.

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