SALEM, Ore. -- Attorneys with the ACLU of Oregon, Innovation Law Lab, and Stoll Berne will ask Oregon’s Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee Friday to adopt a rule prohibiting civil immigration arrests in and around Oregon’s state courthouses without a judicial warrant. The attorneys submitted the proposed rule on behalf of immigrants’ rights and court advocates including Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and the Victim Rights Law Center.
“ICE intrusions in and around Oregon courthouses jeopardize the court’s ability to administer justice as required under the Oregon Constitution,” said Nadia Dahab, attorney at Stoll Berne. “Fear of deportation keeps immigrants from reporting crimes and participating in court proceedings.”
In years prior, immigration enforcement prioritized the removal of persons convicted of serious crimes. However, in 2017, the President Trump issued two executive orders making anyone subject to removal a priority for immigration enforcement. Since then, as part of its mass deportation campaign, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has included state courthouses as a focus for conducting immigration enforcement.
In Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington, courts recognized the harm caused by immigration enforcement at courthouses and limited or blocked ICE from conducting courthouse arrests. In California, a law was signed this week that will prohibit ICE arrests at courts.
“Courthouses should be a ‘sensitive location’ where immigration enforcement is generally disallowed like hospitals and schools,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “It is in the interest of every Oregonian that our courthouses are a place where individuals, regardless of immigration status, can come to seek protection, file a lawsuit, or attend a court appearance.”
In their request, the lawyers write that ICE enforcement at state courthouses has an “impact on the individuals arrested, their families, and the community’s view of Oregon’s courts as safe and accessible places...every time a community member is forcibly taken by ICE from the courthouse, thousands of individuals begin to feel the very real threat that they might be next.”
“We have heard from so many people who are afraid that if they go to court, even just to pay their parking tickets or be a witness, they may be separated from their family,” said Cristina Delgado, the Immigrant Solidarity Project Coordinator for Adelante Mujeres.
Last year, the same groups petitioned Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Martha Walters to protect the safety, welfare, and trust of Oregon’s immigrant community by issuing a rule blocking immigration civil arrests at courthouses. Over 750 Oregon lawyers sent their own letter to the Chief Justice in support of the change, including Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, the president of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the executive directors of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Oregon Law Center, and Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Simlarly, the 1,400-member lawyers’ organization, Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) and over 300 faith leaders from across the state through the through the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) also sent letters to the Chief Justice requesting she issue a rule blocking ICE arrests at Oregon’s courts.
”As people of faith and conscience, we have a moral obligation to work for justice for all people, ensuring that no matter the situation, people feel safe to seek justice without fear. We need to stop ICE from targeting our courthouses,” said Rev. Adam Hange, United Church of Christ pastor from Washington County and leader with IMIrJ.
The ACLU of Oregon says since 2017, hundreds of volunteers from the ACLU and community groups have been trained as courthouse legal observers in Oregon. The blue-vested volunteers regularly observe court proceedings and accompany people to court. They have documented federal immigration agents in plainclothes sitting in on county court proceedings and following people out or waiting inside the hallways or on the grounds. The legal observers have witnessed numerous courthouse arrests, including at least one arrest inside a courtroom and multiple arrests in which ICE agents are physically violent. The ICE agents generally have refused to present any warrant for making an arrest, or to provide individuals with access to an attorney, even if one is present.
“It is terrifying when people in street clothes are grabbing community members from inside and outside the courthouse, stuffing them in unmarked cars, and speeding off,” said Cristina Marquez, interim executive director of Causa Oregon. “These agents don’t answer questions and they don’t produce any documents. What is the difference between what they are doing and a kidnapping?”
The volunteer legal observers also documented the detention of a Latino U.S. citizen and Washington County worker, Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, outside of Washington County Court in 2017. Video of the incident, captured on the ACLU of Oregon’s Mobile Justice app, was widely reported on and viewed across the country. Following the incident, Representative Suzanne Bonamici and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garret criticized ICE’s practices, and Senators Wyden and Merkely called for a congressional inquiry. The agency cleared its agents of wrong-doing and did not apologize to Andrade-Tafolla. In August, Andrade-Tafolla filed an administrative complaint against the agency, seeking $100,000 for “humiliation, emotional distress, and psychological harm” as a result of ICE’s actions that day.
The ACLU of Oregon filed a FOIA request in 2017 seeking documents relating to ICE arrests at state courthouses and ICE’s communications with local government bodies and law enforcement. In August, DHS concluded production releasing more than 35,000 documents to the group. Review of the heavily-redacted and voluminous documents is ongoing, but the ACLU of Oregon says they have found that since 2017, ICE has executed or planned courthouse intrusions at state courthouses serving Clackamas, Clatsop, Gilliam, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Sherman, Wasco, Wheeler, Umatilla, Washington, and Yamhill counties and at the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Those courthouses serve nearly three million Oregonians or 71 percent of the state’s residents.