Oregon’s chief justice bars ICE from courthouse arrests

November 15, 2019 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Seeking to halt federal agents from arresting people in courthouses for immigration violations, Oregon’s Supreme Court chief justice on Thursday prohibited civil arrests in state courthouses unless the arresting agency has a judicial arrest warrant.

This sets up a potential conflict with federal agents. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement will continue its mission and anyone who obstructs it could be charged with crimes, ICE spokeswoman Tanya Roman said from Seattle.

Activists for immigrants have complained about increased enforcement activity around courthouses and other places under the Trump administration. ICE agents have been detaining people who appear for court proceedings and are suspected of being in the United States illegally. In one incident, agents pepper-sprayed family members of a person they were trying to arrest in a courthouse in Astoria, Oregon.


“The courthouse rule stops these frightening practices and ensures that everyone can seek justice in our courts,” said Katherine McDowell, attorney and board member of the ACLU of Oregon.

Judges on the Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee asked Chief Justice Martha Walters on Oct. 18 to impose the rule, saying immigrants, even legal residents, are afraid to go to court because of fear they will be detained.

Walters said arrests in courthouses have interfered with judicial proceedings and removed criminal defendants before they have been sentenced or completed their sentences.

She said the new rule was adopted “not to advance or oppose any political or policy agenda.”

But Roman said ICE agents are forced to go to courthouses to make arrests because of “local policies that prevent law enforcement from cooperating with ICE.”

Oregon is a sanctuary state, limiting state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“ICE will continue to carry out its mission to uphold public safety and enforce immigration law, and consider carefully whether to refer those who obstruct our lawful enforcement efforts for criminal prosecution,” Roman said. Asked if that means ICE agents will continue to attempt courthouse arrests in Oregon, Roman said she was unable to be more specific.

Courts in New York State, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico have already limited or blocked ICE from conducting courthouse arrests, according to Innovation Law Lab, a Portland firm that pressed for the rules in Oregon.


Some of the judges on the rules committee have worried the rule could cause an armed confrontation between county sheriff’s deputies who provide court security and federal agents.

“I don’t know how we would handle that situation, honestly,” Judge Lung Hung of Malheur County Circuit Court said at last month’s rules committee meeting. “It’s the enforcement that concerns me.”

Leland Baxter-Neal, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Oregon, told the committee that in jurisdictions that have adopted similar rules, ICE has respected them, and that he expected they would also be respected in Oregon.

“Thanks to this new rule, Oregon will be a safer and more welcoming place for all,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said.


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