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Why ICE
is raiding courthouses

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says it's safer ... for agents

The feds are blaming sanctuary cities for ICE raids on courthouses

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have a bone to pick with California’s top judge over her allegation that immigration agents are “stalking” undocumented immigrants at courthouses.

Sessions and Kelly have written a strongly worded letter to California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, calling her remarks earlier this month “particularly troubling.” They say it’s perfectly acceptable for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to detain immigrants inside courthouses, and actually preferable since they know that suspects will be unarmed after passing through security.

“Because courthouse visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband, the safety risks for the arresting officers and persons being arrested are substantially decreased,” the letter states.

The letter is dated March 29 but was reportedly sent Friday, according to Politico, which obtained a copy. It’s a direct response to a letter sent by Cantil-Sakauye to Sessions and Kelly on March 16. The judge said ICE agents were using California courthouses as “bait” and “stalking” people who “pose no risk to public safety.”

“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.”

In recent weeks, ICE agents have detained suspects at courthouses in California, Arizona, Colorado, New York, Oregon, and Texas, and likely in other states as well. Critics of this tactic, including Cantil-Sakauye, point out that it creates a climate of fear that discourages victims of crime, sexual abuse, and domestic violence from showing up to court.

Sessions and Kelly argued that ICE agents wouldn’t have to make arrests in public if sanctuary cities would comply with every federal request to keep suspects detained indefinitely in jail. They also objected to the judge’s use of the term “stalking,” which they said has a specific legal definition of “repetitive following or harassment of a victim with the intent to produce fear of harm.”

Cantil-Sakauye hasn’t commented yet about the scolding from the two federal officials, but she’s not the only member of the judiciary with concerns about ICE’s tactics. Judges and prosecutors in multiple states have condemned immigration agents for arresting people in courthouses.

After ICE agents in Texas showed up in court to detain a woman who was seeking a restraining order against her abusive partner, El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said it could keep other domestic violence victims from coming forward.

“Our clients come to us at the lowest point of their lives,” Bernal said, according to the El Paso Times. “Many of them are so frightened of coming to us because of possible immigration concerns.”

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