California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has requested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents cease following undocumented immigrants to California courthouses as a way to make arrests. Justice Cantil-Sakauye made this request in an open letter released on Thursday.
“Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote, before stating that these venues should not be used as “bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.” (ATTN: has reached out to the Chief Justice’s office as well as ICE’s Office of Public Affairs for comment and will update the story when we receive a response.)
She goes on to imply that these actions can disrupt the justice-seeking process as some undocumented immigrants could be making an appearance in court as witnesses to crimes or even survivors of sexual assault or domestic abuse.
Last month, one such disruption made national news when ICE agents who entered an El Paso courthouse and arrested a transgender woman who had just received a protective order from the court as a survivor of domestic abuse. At the time, some experts were worried about the chilling effect that this could have on undocumented immigrants reporting crimes.
Cantil-Sakauye’s letter was sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly after Cantil-Sakauye said she received reports from trial courts that ICE agents were “stalking” undocumented immigrants within their premises. She notes in her letter that such actions could erode public trust in state court systems and that “enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair.”
“[These policies] not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice. I respectfully request that you refrain from this sort of enforcement in California's courthouses.”
The election of President Donald Trump, who ran on a message of securing the border and deporting undocumented immigrants, has put a spotlight on what some lawmakers see as increased ICE activity. (ATTN: has written about how these differ from similar raids under the Obama administration.) On January 25, Trump signed an immigration-focused executive order that expands who is considered a deportation priority, and he has pledged to hire 10,000 more ICE agents and 5,000 more Border Patrol agents in order to make good on these promises. Some cities are pushing back by saying they'll remain "sanctuaries" for undocumented immigrants. California is currently considering legislation that would make it a "sanctuary state."