USCCR condemns ICE agents in Courthouses

By Hubert Plummer posted 03-25-2018 11:14 PM


Recently U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents have been undertaking enforcement actions inside courthouses around the country.  In other words, ICE agents have been arresting undocumented immigrants inside or just outside courthouses.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bi-partisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters, released a letter on March 16, 2018, calling on the Deputy Director of ICE to cease these activities.[i]  The commission had previously released a statement on the same issue on April 24, 2017.[ii]

In its statement, the commission noted the severe impact these activities have on access to justice.  They noted a case where a woman in Texas was arrested just after obtaining a protective order against her alleged abuser and other cases where women dropped complaints against alleged abusers for fear of being arrested at court.

These activities are making access to justice far more difficult for undocumented immigrants.  They fear the courthouse is not a safe place to seek justice but is a potential trap.  This means they won’t seek protections they are entitled to under the law.  Things like protective orders against abusers or making criminal complaints for crimes they have been victims of.  They will be afraid to attend court to defend against eviction proceedings or traffic tickets.  They will be afraid to be witnesses in cases for friends and family members, or even strangers who may be victims of crimes.

This fear can have profound effects on people’s lives.  If they fail to appear in court for minor infractions like traffic tickets or to defend against civil complaints they can have default judgements entered against them which can include fines, jail time, civil damages, and evictions.  If they are then unable to pay the fines they can be arrested and at that point subject to deportation.

One of the foundations of our society is free access to our court system to seek redress for wrongs and to defend oneself against allegations.  With ICE agents prowling the courthouses this access is denied.  It encourages undocumented immigrants to hide, to go underground and not fully participate in society, thus limiting their future and placing a burden on our society.



The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.