Following reports that United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are now going to courthouses to arrest undocumented immigrants, attorneys, and prosecutors are worried about the chilling impact this could have on people’s willingness to report crimes or come forward to testify in a judicial proceeding. The issue has attracted the attention of the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, who has written a letter to federal officials asking them to reconsider the tactic in light of the risks.
Whether or not a person is in the country illegally, he or she can file for protective orders to keep abusers away, appear as a witness in various criminal proceedings, be a complainant in criminal cases, and even be a plaintiff in lawsuits. The ability to access the judicial system in this way can be a life saver for a group of people who may otherwise be victimized or taken advantage of with no recourse. This is why this ICE tactic is seen as being so dangerous to communities.
This is not the first time ICE has engaged in this kind of policing and arresting tactic, but in the past, it was used mainly as a last recourse in cases where no home or work address could be found on a certain person, or where the risk of making the arrest elsewhere was high for the ICE agents. However, now it seems that it may be applicable in more situations.
Immigrants Assisting in Criminal Prosecutions
This tactic has support from some people because there is an assumption that at least some of the immigrants arrested in courthouses are there as criminal defendants. While this is true, there is also the risk of deporting those who are helping prosecute criminals regardless of their immigration status. The federal government has long recognized the role that can be played by immigrants in assisting law enforcement agents solve crimes and prosecute high level criminals, for example through the use of the U-Visa program.
Generally, non-U.S. citizens who are victims of certain crimes, who have suffered mental or physical abuse, and who are willing to help law enforcement officials in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity are eligible for a nonimmigrant visa known as a U-Visa. This visa was introduced as a way to protect crime victims and ensure that crimes from domestic violence to human trafficking could be effectively investigated with the help of victims who are not U.S. citizens. While U-Visas are generally only applicable to immigrants who are admissible into the U.S., those who are inadmissible may apply for a waiver in order to meet the requirement.
It is difficult to know what areas may be targeted by ICE agents for raids to arrest undocumented immigrants for deportation proceedings. It is important to remember that you still have rights when it comes to immigration agents coming into your home to make an arrest, and a warrant is generally required.
If you are arrested at a protest rally, courthouse, church, or any other unexpected location, it is important to have a contingency plan in place if you have young children, remain calm at all times, do not resist arrest, and always carry a number for an immigration attorney just in case.
Contact Us for Legal Help
For legal assistance with your immigration issues, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.