BAKERSFIELD - Today the ACLU of California and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project applaud the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to halt its troubling practice of arresting individuals at Kern County courthouses.
In October, the ACLU called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to put an end to the sweeps through Kern County’s courthouses that led to the arrests of immigrants who were merely getting married, paying fines, or seeking domestic violence restraining orders.
In choosing to stop its misguided practice in Kern County, ICE puts public safety first and demonstrates a commitment to its own enforcement priorities that require agents to focus on individuals who pose a threat to communities.
“We commend ICE for ending a practice that penalized residents for complying with their legal obligations and accessing essential court services,” said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “All residents should feel able to go to court without fear of deportation.”
“We are pleased that the federal immigrations authorities have taken this sensible step,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Just as schools and places of worship are considered sensitive locations that are off-limits to immigration enforcement, courthouses need to be accessible to all Californians.”
ICE’s decision in Kern County, however, is a first step.
“Unfortunately, what happened in Kern County is also taking place in other courthouses across the country,” said Kate Desormeau, a staff attorney at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “DHS should apply the Kern County policy nationwide and order all DHS personnel to refrain from conducting immigration enforcement actions on courthouse grounds, absent exigent circumstances. Every day people go to courts to participate in important legal matters – to get married, to seek child custody, to finalize adoption, to obtain life-saving protection from abusers or stalkers, to testify as victims or witnesses in criminal cases. People need to access the courts, without risking deportation. This is a matter of public safety, victim protection, and equal justice.”
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