RICHMOND (May 26, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general in continuing efforts to halt federal immigration arrests of noncitizens in and around state courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order. In an amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiffs in Ryan v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the coalition urges the court to uphold a Massachusetts district court’s preliminary injunction that effectively halted these arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Attorney General Herring joined a similar amicus brief earlier this year opposing the same policy in the State of Washington.
“ICE’s courthouse arrests are merely another attempt by the Trump Administration to target and intimidate immigrant communities,” said Attorney General Herring. “These illegal arrests endanger our communities and our public safety, stop courts from operating properly, and have extremely negative effects on immigrant communities. I will continue to join my fellow attorneys general in fighting to stop the Trump Administration’s constant efforts to scare immigrants and make them feel unwelcome in our country.”
In April 2019, both the Middlesex County district attorney and the Suffolk County district attorney in Massachusetts, along with a number of immigrant advocates, sued ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among others, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, arguing that the federal government’s policy and practice of arresting noncitizens — both those with legal status and undocumented alike — at or around state courthouses violated the Administrative Procedure Act; the Tenth Amendment; and the right of access to courts, which is protected by the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the Trump Administration’s policies and were successful. The Trump Administration appealed the preliminary injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues are urging the appellate court to affirm the lower court’s order; arguing that the federal government has been pursuing its expanded arrest policy in all of the states that are filing this brief, in violation of its statutory authority and the common law privilege against civil arrests at courthouses. These unlawful arrests have made it increasingly difficult and sometimes impossible for state judiciaries and prosecutors to maintain the open, safe, and fair courts that are necessary for the orderly administration of justice and the preservation of public safety, since many immigrants are now afraid to report crimes, testify in court, or cooperate with law enforcement or prosecutors.
The amicus brief further explains that the federal government’s practice of conducting civil immigration arrests is deeply harmful to the effective functioning of the states’ court systems and has specifically interfered with state judicial proceedings and the ability of states to pursue criminal prosecutions.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Herring joined a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a Washington lawsuit against DHS, ICE, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection over their practice of arresting noncitizens without a judicial warrant or court order in and around state courthouses in the State of Washington.
Since President Trump took office, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed across the nation — leading to a widespread, chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested while appearing in and around state courts since January 2017, including parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; those accused of a crime; LGBTQ+ individuals; and many others. These arrests have happened on a near-daily basis.
Additionally, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the state.
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.