United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents generally avoid making arrests in places they consider sensitive, such as in schools, churches, and hospitals. Yet, they are still actively making arrests at courthouses throughout the country, despite strong opposition from immigration advocates. According to a recent study by the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University, the possibility of arrest keeps many undocumented crime victims and witnesses from stepping forward and engaging in the justice system. The greater Philadelphia region is one of the most active for immigrant arrests.
In 2018, ICE clarified their guidelines for courthouse arrests. While the agency permitted the practice, the agents had to do so discreetly with minimal disruption to court proceedings. The Sheller study revealed that probation officers and other courthouse employees tip off ICE agents of the immigration status of courthouse visitors, allowing agents to arrest them upon arrival.
Yet, it is not just parolees they are arresting. They are arresting plaintiffs, defendants, and individuals with any sort of court business. One online media outlet went as far as to call their behavior, “stalking.” Fearing arrest, many undocumented men and women avoid legal proceedings and prevent cases from moving forward. When individuals are afraid to speak out and pursue justice, the crimes perpetrated against them are nearly impossible to investigate. These crimes include assaults, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other violent offenses.
Advocacy Against Courthouse Arrests
The Sheller Center surveyed victims’ advocacy groups, Philadelphia immigration lawyers, and legal-aid agencies for the report and used ICE research and data obtained by the Freedom of Information Act. In the report, several scenarios were included to illustrate the problematic nature of courthouse arrests: ICE agents waiting outside courthouse entrances to arrest undocumented immigrants, detaining men and women in common areas, and arresting individuals reporting to their probation officers.
Based on the report, the Sheller Center implored the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take three steps moving forward:
- Restrict ICE enforcement at courthouses
- Restrict courthouse personnel from cooperating with ICE
- Stop courts from collecting immigrants’ status information
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients with Immigration Concerns
If you have an immigration issue, the Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help. We handle the most complex immigration issues, including those dealing with visas, appeals, asylum petitions, and removal. To get started, contact us online or call us at 215-925-4435 for a consultation. We represent clients from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and nationwide.