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ACLU files suit to stop courthouse ICE arrests
In Oregon, the American Civil Liberties Union is filing suit against the federal government over the presence of federal immigration officers at cour ...
Monday, February 12, 2018
by Martin Barillas

In Oregon, the American Civil Liberties Union is filing suit against the federal government over the presence of federal immigration officers at courthouses in the state. In conformity with a directive from Acting Director Thomas Homan of the Immigration and Customs Enfrocement agency on Jan. 10, ICE is targeting criminal aliens appearing in court. Homan wrote in his order, “Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials routinely engage in enforcement activity in courthouses throughout the country because many individuals appearing in courthouses for one matter are wanted for unrelated criminal or civil violations.” Homan continued, “ICE’s enforcement activities in these same courthouses are wholly consistent with longstanding law enforcement practices, nationwide.”

“And, courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails,” Homan said. By refusing to comply with detainer requests from ICE, local jurisdictions offering sanctuary to illegal aliens are effectively endangering ICE officers and the wider community, claims the agency. 

The ACLU has demanded that ICE disclose how many immigrants have been questioned by immigration officers in the environs of Oregon’s courthouses. The group wants to see records dating all the way back to January 2017, before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Also, the ACLU lawsuit wants judges to order ICE to reveal its policies about officers wearing plainclothes, any policies regarding the persons targeted, and policies about officers who refuse to identify themselves to detainees. ICE has denied that it is engaging in racial profiling. 

Controversy ensued in 2017 when immigration officers, claims the ACLU, mistook a Washington County, Oregon, municipal worker for another man they were seeking. Isidro Andrade-Tafolla of Hillsboro, Oregon, is an American citizen who was approached by immigration agents after he left the Washington County Courthouse. While they repeatedly asked for his name and identification, the agents did not identify themselves to Andrade-Tafolla, he said. The agents showed a photo of the man they were looking for to Andrade-Tafolla. Once they realized their mistake, the agents left, said Andrade-Tafolla. 

Seeking to know whether the immigration agents were motivated by racism, the ACLU wants a judge to release the photo the agents used in the encounter with Andrade-Tafolla, as well as records related to its planning and outcome. ICE told the ACLU that its request for the information was too broad, and the ACLU is accusing ICE in its lawsuit of violating the Freedom of Information Act.

Some jurisdictions have asked ICE to be less aggressive in enforcing federal immigration laws. In 2017, Multnomah County leaders asked ICE to go elsewhere to make arrests. Also, Oregon’s chief justice of the state supreme court urged the Trump administration to look beyond Oregon for immigration arrests.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon. Read the lawsuit here.

Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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