Federal Judge Bars Immigration Arrests at San Diego Area Courthouses

Following in the footsteps of authorities in New York City, Boston, and Portland, San Diego may be next in line in barring federal authorities from arresting immigration lawbreakers on courthouse grounds.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its immigration agencies from making immigration arrests at the federal courthouses in San Diego and El Centro. The decision comes on the heels of a complaint filed last October, questioning why DHS attends hearings for aliens who were charged for unlawful entry into the United States. Immigration attorneys claim their clients had posted bond and were not jailed before their hearings, only for authorities to arrest those aliens at the end of their cases.

Judge Sabraw wrote in his ruling that the court should be “a sanctuary – a place where parties and witnesses must be free from interference and intimidation to present their claims and defenses.”

One would think a sitting officer of the court would understand the sound logic of immigration agents making arrests at courthouses. Thanks to the growth of pro-illegal alien policies and sanctuary jurisdictions throughout the state of California, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies have had to apprehend illegal aliens at courthouses to ensure their capture. This is much safer for immigration agents than being forced to apprehend these aliens on the street or in their homes where they could be armed.

Being in the United States unlawfully is a civil offense. Immigration authorities can arrest foreign nationals for the crime of unlawful status alone; their presence and actions at courthouses is legitimate. Similarly, arrests for criminal and civil violations occur in courthouses across the United States every day. What difference does it make that federal agents proactively apprehend and remove unlawful aliens?

In an attempt to stop ICE from arresting illegal aliens, the California State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 688 last October. The bill prohibits civil arrests in state courthouses without a judicial warrant. However, as FAIR’s David Jaroslav has pointed out, judicial warrants for immigration violations do not exist under federal law.

Additionally, ICE has jurisdiction across the United States. Their authority does not end at the request or action of state and local officials. Judge Sabraw’s courthouse ban expires after 14 days, so it remains to be seen if he will codify a permanent prohibition of immigration law enforcement. If so, the San Diego area would join several other jurisdictions that prohibit ICE from courthouse property.

If court officials demonstrated the same amount of concern for the safety of American citizens and legal immigrants as they do for illegal aliens, they would not obstruct immigration enforcement from effectuating their duties. Permitting arrests in courthouses is a safer and more efficient way for ICE agents to promptly remove immigration lawbreakers from our communities.

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