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ICE Arresting Undocumented Immigrants at Courthouses

(Photo: ICE)

(Photo: ICE)

Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News Service

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrest people when they go to courthouses to pay traffic tickets, report crimes or get married, the ACLU says in a letter demanding an end to the practice.

In a 6-page letter to the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ACLU Southern California staff attorney Michael Kaufman asked ICE to stop the “abusive arrests” at Kern County courthouses, in and around Bakersfield. The ACLU claims the arrests violate ICE’s alleged policy that agents avoid making arrests in “sensitive locations,” such as schools, hospitals, churches and other places of worship. The ACLU urged ICE to add courthouses to that list.

The letter cites several ICE arrests at Kern County courts. It claims the courthouse raids are “causing significant harm in the Kern County community.”

“The arrests have prevented residents from complying with their obligations to pay citations and appear for court hearings, and from obtaining restraining orders, marriage licenses and other essential court services,” Kaufman wrote.

“Moreover, ICE’s actions have created a culture of fear, deterring residents from exercising their constitutional right and civic duty to appear for court hearings or seek court services.”

In one case this year, Sergio Villatoro was at a Kern County courthouse in Lamont, Calif., to pay a parking ticket when ICE agents arrived and blocked the exits, the ACLU says. Agents did not confirm Villatoro’s identity or his immigration status when they arrested him and five other Latinos waiting to pay tickets, the letter states. Villatoro had been in America for a decade and never was arrested. He was about to pay a ticket for driving without a license. If deported, Villatoro will have to leave behind two young children, both U.S. citizens, the ACLU says.

Indian national Gurvinder Singh was arrested in September 2012 at the Kern County courthouse where he was present to marry his partner, Kuldeet Kaur. Singh says ICE agents detained him after he told them he had entered the United States through Mexico. Singh had sought asylum in the United States, was in immigration proceedings and had never missed a court appearance, the ACLU says. Singh was detained and released. ICE monitored him electronically and made him report to the agency every 15 days, Kaufman said.

The attorney said ICE has arrested victims of crime and witnesses at courthouses.

ICE’s courthouse raids are not limited to Kern County; they also have been reported in Santa Clara, according to the ACLU letter.

“Attending court hearings is not only a constitutionally protected right, but it is vital to public safety that residents can appear in court, comply with law enforcement citations and court orders, and seek other court services without fear of reprisal from ICE,” Kaufman wrote.

The letter is addressed to John Sandweg, ICE Acting Director. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for an interview. The courthouse raids appear to belie ICE officials’ oft-repeated statements that the agency concentrates its efforts on arresting and deporting dangerous criminals.

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8 Comments

  1. wildOctober 29, 2013 at 2:01 amReply

    Rare does the ACLU stand upon a flimsy argument, but expecting court premises to be included on the list of sensitive locations is ridiculous.

    From the article/Kaufman: “Moreover, ICE’s actions have created a culture of fear, deterring residents from exercising their constitutional right and civic duty to appear for court hearings or seek court services.”

    From that quote, simply change the word RESIDENTS to ILLEGAL ALIENS, the re-statement then reveals the faulty direction Kaufman seeks to promote.

    I doubt further constitutional protection for illegal aliens is required nor wanted, in my opinion. I think the example from the article of Sergio Villatoro of 10 yrs. {illegal alien}, displaced a legitimate citizen of 10 yrs work {and other benefits of being a legal citizen}, and generally undercut the work standard {and other benefits of being a legal citizen} a legitimate citizen demands under US law.

    If the ICE police, & other police want to make an beneficial impact, verify the work history of such illegal aliens, and arrest each and every contemptible employer.

    I believe it is cutthroat employers actively seeking illegal alien workers that are providing the well worn pathway in the race to the bottom of this ditch.

    wild;)

    • Brett WilkinsOctober 29, 2013 at 4:07 pmReply

      I believe using the term “illegal aliens” is akin to calling blacks “colored people.”

  2. wildOctober 29, 2013 at 3:09 amReply

    http://www.aclusocal.org/letter-to-ice-kern-county/ shows the 6 page letter that the original courthouse news service article had footnoted.

    wild;)

    • Brett WilkinsOctober 29, 2013 at 4:07 pmReply

      Thanks for that…

  3. wildOctober 29, 2013 at 5:53 pmReply

    Oh sorry about that, I didn’t know illegal aliens is now a slur and is not the proper name for people whom are foreigners living in this country without legal permission to be here.

    I would have no problem considering myself an illegal alien if I decided to domicile in Haiti, and somehow forgot to get legal permission.

    I wasn’t trying to be racist, or even derogatory, I just tell it like it is, as I see it…just know that I hate everyone equally. hahaha

    By the way, what do you call a guy that is driving around illegally, possibly working illegally, making babies now anchored to US citizenship…oh yeah ‘DREAMERS’, but that just doesn’t make any point at all… using that word DREAMERS, unless I capitalize itor put quote marks on it, like it is special in some way.

    Reminds me of that fun song that Jewell performs: Your so Special.

    I will try to use the term illegal immigrant in the future. I always try very hard not to intentionally reveal prejudice toward people with some sort of talent.

    Hey Brett, anytime you wanna kick me outta here, just let me know, and I’ll be gone like a puff of smoke.

    wild;)

    • Brett WilkinsOctober 29, 2013 at 6:28 pmReply

      Now why would I kick out my most prolific commenter? If I weren’t for you, there’d be nothing but tumbleweeds blowing through here half of the time…

  4. wildOctober 30, 2013 at 6:50 amReply

    Well why are you doing this website anyway?

    I think unusual news is interesting and even exciting at times, that I why continue to show up, although I must admit there are times when I wouldn’t click on some of those videos posted here out of pure fear. hahaha

    wild;)

    • Brett WilkinsOctober 30, 2013 at 10:29 amReply

      Why do I do this? Ultimately, it’s all about the unending battle for the evolution of the human conscience. It’s a struggle between moral progress, that inexorable yet switchback climb towards a more perfect humanity, and the status quo, which is to say, essentially, the aggregate barbarism of all the ages.

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