Concerns expressed about federal immigration agents at local courthouses
A front-page article in the Sept. 19 edition of The Columbian, “ICE agents create a chill at courthouse,” was part of a three-day series about the uncertainty facing undocumented immigrants since President Donald Trump took office in January.
The article said courthouse arrests by immigration enforcement officers “have elicited harsh criticism from attorneys and judges who argue that the practice interferes with the criminal justice system.”
The article included an example of a defendant in a felony domestic violence case who was picked up by ICE agents at the Clark County Courthouse. We’ve had clients, who have no prior criminal history and who are charged with misdemeanors, been picked up by ICE agents at the courthouse this year.
As noted in the article, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote a letter in March to Secretary John F. Kelly of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expressing her concern about ICE agents at local courthouses.
“In many locations around our state, a courthouse is the only place where individuals are ensured of a trusted public forum where they will be treated with dignity, respect and fairness,” Fairhurst wrote. “This includes victims in need of protection from domestic violence, criminal defendants being held accountable for their actions, witnesses summoned to testify and families who may be in crisis.”
“We have worked diligently to earn and maintain the trust of communities throughout Washington State to ensure that courthouses are that public forum. The fear of apprehension by immigration officials deters individuals from accessing our courthouses and erodes this trust, even for those with lawful immigration status,” the chief justice wrote.
“When people are afraid to access our courts, it undermines our fundamental mission. I am concerned at the reports that the fear now present in our immigrant communities is impeding their access to justice. These developments risk making our communities less safe,” she wrote.
A copy of Fairhurst’s letter can be found here.