Immigration agents could start arresting undocumented crime victims at courthouses, a Department of Homeland Security official announced Tuesday, sparking criticism from state officials who argue that such policies would prevent local police departments and prosecutors from doing their jobs.
David Lapan, a spokesman with the department, told reporters that someone who is subject to deportation shouldn't be shielded simply because he or she is a crime victim. Witnesses to crimes shouldn't be protected either, he added.
"Just because they're a victim in a certain case does not mean there's not something in their background that could cause them to be a removable alien," Lapan said. "Just because they're a witness doesn't mean they might not pose a security threat for other reasons."
But critics claim that the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at courthouses would deter victims from reporting crimes and witnesses from testifying to them.
Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of California, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and DHS Secretary John Kelly last month amid reports of ICE officials cuffing undocumented immigrants at courthouses across the Golden State.
"Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety," Cantil-Sakauye wrote. "Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country's immigration laws."
Echoing Cantil-Sakauey's criticism, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that his city has seen a 25% drop in the number of sexual assaults reported by Latino residents since President Trump took office. He also reported a 10% drop in domestic violence reports among the same group.
In a joint response to Cantil-Sakauye's letter, Kelly and Sessions argued that conducting arrests at courthouses safeguards ICE agents from violence, as suspects have had to first go through weapon screenings before entering the judicial buildings. They also argued that detaining people at courthouses in so-called sanctuary states, such as California and New York, is necessary since they refuse to cooperate with detainer requests from ICE.
"As a result, ICE officers and agents are required to locate and arrest these aliens in public places," Kelly and Sessions wrote.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Lapan tried to assure critics that undocumented immigrants who have been subjected to sexual assault and domestic violence can apply for so-called U visas.
But the government only offers 10,000 such visas per year, and application processes can take months. Furthermore, some recent ICE arrests seem to suggest that the victims Lapan referred to are still being targeted.
A case that recently made national headlines involved an undocumented woman from Mexico who was arrested at a courthouse in El Paso, Texas, when she apparently tried to file a protective order against a boyfriend she claimed was abusing her.
"We will not continue to contribute to the safety of the United States and the State of Texas if people don't feel comfortable reporting domestic abuse, reporting crime, serving as witnesses, working with law enforcement," Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said on the House floor after the woman's arrest in February. "I urge this administration to send an unequivocal message that it is imperative that we respect all people of all communities regarding their immigration status."
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
Miami immigration lawyers and deportation defense law
Our Miami immigration attorneys are known for representing clients in all areas of immigration law with a concentration in deportation defense. Antonio G. Revilla III is a Former U.S. Immigration Prosecutor and a Miami immigration attorney with over 25 years of legal experience.
Mr. Revilla has gained an impressive reputation in the South Florida legal community and he is the lawyer that other lawyers call to handle complex immigration cases. What differentiates Mr. Revilla and his team of immigration associates is that they focus on the issues and develop effective legal strategies that will help you achieve the best outcome in your immigration case.
Contact the Miami immigration lawyers at Revilla Law Firm, P.A., today to schedule a free in-office consultation with Antonio G. Revilla III. Mr. Revilla also offers telephone consultations for a nominal fee.
Call: (305) 858-2323 or toll free (877) 854-2323