SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — U.S. immigration agents arrested two people at a Northern California courthouse, including a man detained in a hallway on his way to a hearing, flouting a new state law requiring a judicial warrant to make immigration arrests inside such facilities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests Tuesday at Sonoma County Superior Court, prompting an outcry from criminal justice and court officials who said the action undermines local authority and deters immigrants who are in the country illegally from participating in the U.S. justice system.
ICE said California’s law doesn’t supersede federal law and “will not govern the conduct of federal officers acting pursuant to duly-enacted laws passed by Congress that provide the authority to make administrative arrests of removable aliens inside the United States.”
“Our officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws to remove criminal aliens from our communities,” David Jennings, ICE’s field office director in San Francisco, said in the statement.
California is one of several states that have passed laws to push back on a Trump administration policy introduced two years ago to make immigration arrests inside courthouses. Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law to prohibit immigration arrests at courthouses without a warrant issued by a judge.
The arrests in Sonoma County came days after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced the agency will participate in ICE’s escalating immigration enforcement across the country in jurisdictions with sanctuary policies such as California and San Francisco.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin condemned the arrests for undermining public safety. Sonoma County counsel Bruce Goldstein called ICE’s actions “lawless” because the agents had no warrants.
“It’s now going to put total fear in the community,” Pozzi said in an interview with the Press Democrat. “People aren’t going to come to court. Victims will refuse to show up. Witnesses will refuse to show up … cases will have to get dismissed.”
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said both men had been arrested by immigration officers numerous times from 2004 to 2010 and returned to Mexico in response several times.
In one of the arrests, a Sonoma County public defender and an investigator confronted an ICE agent leading a 37-year-old man to an unmarked law enforcement vehicle, demanding information about the affiliation of the agent, who wore no uniform, and the name of the man being taken away, Pozzi said. The man was detained in a second-floor hallway of the courthouse before he could attend his court hearing, she said.
His lawyer, private defense attorney Martin Woods, said his client was a carpenter who was expecting to resolve his criminal case Tuesday. The man had been arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence and misdemeanor drunken driving and had since been trying to take responsibility for the incident, Woods said.
In another case, witnesses said a federal agent in plainclothes confronted a man in the parking lot, at first putting out his hand as if offering a handshake then grabbing the man’s elbow before unzipping his own jacket to reveal a federal law enforcement badge, Pozzi said.