Ohio judge may call ICE in migrant cases

Ruehlman ‘hasn’t been wrong yet’ on hunches

- Cameron Knight Cincinnati Enquirer USA TODAY NETWORK

CINCINNATI – An arrest inside a Cincinnati courthouse last week prompted a political fight over whether federal immigratio­n police should be allowed to arrest undocument­ed immigrants who show up for court appearance­s.

Now a common pleas judge in Hamilton County, Ohio, has said that when he suspects a defendant is undocument­ed, he calls Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t himself.

Judge Robert Ruehlman told The Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesday: “They’re committing a crime by being here illegally, and then, if they’re in front of me, they’ve allegedly committed a felony.”

And how does he know someone is

here illegally?

If the person needs an interprete­r, is accused of drug smuggling or has internatio­nal connection­s, Ruehlman said he acts on his hunch.

“I set a high bond and I call ICE,” he said. “I’m batting a thousand. I haven’t got one wrong yet.”

Ruehlman said he calls ICE about a dozen times a year. He said he has a good relationsh­ip with the agency.

Ruehlman’s comments come after a political firestorm was ignited last week when ICE made an arrest inside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Some assumed ICE was being tipped off by a local agency; maybe the sheriff ’s office, maybe the court administra­tion. Both denied it. No one accused judges.

Ruehlman, a Republican, presides over mostly felony-level cases in Hamilton County, Ohio, which encompasse­s Cincinnati. He was first elected to the bench in 1987. He was last re-elected in 2016 to a six-year term.

A local immigratio­n rights activist questioned whether Ruehlman’s actions might scare immigrants away from reporting crime.

A presiding judge, a fellow Republican, said he doesn’t call ICE even if he suspects a defendant is here illegally.

ICE is barred from making arrests in certain sensitive areas, specifical­ly churches, schools and hospitals. Some New York legislator­s have fought to get courthouse­s added to that list.

However, Ruehlman said, he thinks this argument is a “red herring.” He said even in cases that involve known illegal immigrants, ICE has worked with his court and prosecutor­s to allow them to testify.

Judge Charles Kubicki, the presiding and administra­tive judge for Common Pleas Court, said he was not aware that Ruehlman had contacted ICE, and said he’s not aware of any other judges doing it.

He said, that as far as he knows, there are no rules or laws that prevent judges from contacting immigratio­n agents. He added there are no laws requiring judges to do it either.

Kubicki said, for him, issues of immigratio­n are between the defendant and the federal government.

“I never call ICE,” he said. “I don’t know their number.”

 ?? ENQUIRER FILE ?? Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman, who imposed a homeless ban in Hamilton County
ENQUIRER FILE Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman, who imposed a homeless ban in Hamilton County

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