ICE is defending its policy to make arrests in state courthouses, asking a federal judge to toss a suit by District Attorneys Marian Ryan and Rachael Rollins, saying federal common law has never provided immunity from immigration enforcement.
“Congress has spoken completely to ICE’s arrest authority and provided no limitations on courthouse arrests,” a motion to dismiss the civil suit filed late Friday read.
Attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement also said the Suffolk and Middlesex DAs lack standing to file a lawsuit, because they are not illegal immigrants or subjects of ICE’s civil arrests, and the courthouse enforcement directive is unreviewable because it deals with prosecutorial discretion.
The 23-page motion also notes the DAs’ lawsuit has not specifically identified a single person who is subject to the rule, instead referring to “certain aliens.”
Rollins said in a statement to the Herald Sunday, “A federal judge’s decision earlier this year to grant our preliminary injunction barring ICE from making civil arrests in public areas of Massachusetts courts speaks to the strength of our case. I look forward to watching the case as it proceeds.”
Ryan and Rollins filed their suit against ICE in April arguing that the arrests of illegal immigrants in state courthouses by ICE agents has a chilling effect in the migrant communities’ involvement with the law. The plaintiffs claim criminal defendants and witnesses refused to appear at hearings while ICE agents were patrolling courthouses.
The suit claimed the civil arrests occurred “approximately two or three times a week,” with a large percentage in Middlesex and Suffolk Counties.
ICE has been temporarily banned from making the courthouse arrests after federal judge Indira Talwani, a 2013 Obama appointee, granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the DAs in June. An appeal of the ruling is pending in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for ICE explained their 2018 policy allowing courthouse arrests, writing the action may be necessary when local jurisdictions decline to cooperate with ICE in transferring illegal immigrants.
“Given that persons who enter courthouses are typically screened for weapons, ‘immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses can reduce safety risks to the public, targeted alien(s), and ICE officers and agents,” the motion said.
Rollins and Ryan also argue ICE has prevented noncitizens from filing legal papers, an argument the ICE refuted.
“(The directive) forces non-citizens potentially subject to removal to risk civil arrest to access the courts,” the motion states. “But no alien has the right to evade law enforcement.”
The DAs, the state’s public defenders’ committee and the Chelsea collaborative organization, which joined Rollins’ and Ryan’s suit, are due in federal court in January for a status conference.
ICE also faces a Jan. 16 deadline to file a response in the appeal over the preliminary injunction on court arrests.
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