NOI 42: Arresting Immigrants at Courthouses

Today in Nation of Immigrants, attorney Jacob Tingen reviews some recent headlines out of Colorado about the issue of how ICE carries out its enforcement priorities.

Jacob Tingen: Hello again, nation of immigrants. We are back. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about, where can I arrest immigrants? And it’s an interesting issue because, well, I mean there’s headlines about it, but also people kind of understand there are a couple of places where ICE has said they won’t go to arrest immigrants, churches notably. But then there’s this question of whether courthouses should be on that list. So, there’s a recent headline, and this is from the Denver Post, ICE Arrests at Colorado Courthouses Leave Immigrants Fearful. So, we’re going to talk about that after our intro.

Announcer: You’re listening to Nation of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

Announcer: A podcast about U.S. immigration law, with your host, Jacob Tingen.

Jacob Tingen: Okay. So like I said, we’re going to be talking about this issue of ICE and where they arrest people, and are there any places where they’re not allowed to go? ICE has a policy that in 2011 they implemented saying they won’t carry out enforcement operations in so-called sensitive locations. Okay. So, there are a limited number of sensitive locations, and here’s the list. So, locations that ICE has deemed sensitive are schools, daycares, preschools, primary and secondary schools, universities, bus stops for schools, that kind of thing. So schools. Hospitals and doctor offices, they’re not going to be going to doctor offices to arrest people, which I think is pretty good policy. They’re not going to go to churches, places of worship. I mentioned that. Funerals and weddings, I think there are obvious reasons for why they wouldn’t typically carry out enforcement operations in those kinds of scenarios. And then also public demonstrations, such as marches, rallies or parades.

Jacob Tingen: And then it’s interesting, just today the issue we’re talking about courthouses. Courthouses are not on the list of sensitive locations. So ICE does carry out enforcement operations at courthouses. So, what we’re going to talk about today is one, is that a problem? And if it’s a problem, why is it a problem? I mean, should we have a problem with this? Should we have a problem with the idea that ICE is arresting people at courthouses? And so, this article talks about a scenario where they did arrest someone at a courthouse. So basically someone had some involvement with our criminal justice system. I can’t tell from the what exactly it was or whether, or not they were guilty or whether, or not they were a victim, or how they plead, or how it was resolved. There’s just not a lot about her specific involvement with the criminal justice system in this article. It does seem or it implies that charges were ultimately dropped, whatever they were.

Jacob Tingen: So, but what’s interesting is now that she’s on immigration’s radar, she’s coming out of court with her attorney and I believe her husband, or the father or children, or something to that effect. And they see an unmarked van and two people in plain clothes sitting in the van. And then as soon as their lawyer goes away and they start to approach their own vehicle, these gentlemen in the van come out and it turns out that they’re ICE agents. They began to ask them a lot of questions, and ultimately arrest this woman. So, what’s interesting is that there’s this community pushback against having ICE carry out enforcement operations at a place like a courthouse. And like I said, ICE does have a list of sensitive locations. Why didn’t courthouses make the cut? And a lot of people might say, well they should have because courthouses are sensitive locations. People have to show up to court. I guess ICE’s perspective is, well, that makes it an ideal place to pick people up. One of the other things ICE has said, and they’re quoted in this article as saying, well, if local jurisdictions cooperated with us then we wouldn’t have to ambush people at court, is what they say.

Jacob Tingen: Again, we talked about the argument yesterday about ICE holds, and about local cooperation with a federal agency, and how sometimes the level of cooperation that ICE asks for is unconstitutional. And so, it’s not always clear to me that the arguments presented by ICE are genuine, and they basically feed on this misinformation. So one of the things that I’d like to present in this podcast is that, of course government agencies should be honest, and ICE holds … And I’ll admit, the issue of ICE holds, whether or not they’re unconstitutional, is a matter of opinion. However, every single appellate court that has looked at the issue has determined they’re unconstitutional. So there is a growing consensus and there’s agreement that the manner of enforcement, the way that that law was written, that it’s a poorly written law, that it is not constitutional, that it violates people’s rights. So, savvy jurisdictions and jurisdictions who want to avoid future liability, they’re not going to hold onto people under an ICE hold request. And there’s good reason for that.

Jacob Tingen: That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to cooperate with federal law enforcement. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to do their part to reduce crime or those kinds of things. But those are the arguments that are often advanced by ICE to justify ever increasing more aggressive law enforcement tactics. And I believe that that is a disingenuous argument on the part of ICE and it’s spokespeople. It doesn’t present the whole truth and it is not 100% accurate. Okay. So moving on, Martinez talks about how she trusted the American criminal justice system, that she trusted … I mean, that’s frankly one of the reasons people come to this country is because they’re not safe in their country, and they believe and feel strongly that they will be safe in this country. When I’ve talked to so many clients who have said, I’ve called the police in my country and they don’t show up for a day or two, and then they ask for gas money so that they can even operate. But in this country, I know I can trust the police. If I call, they’ll respond. There will be a response. Things are going to turn out okay. I feel safe in the U.S. because of my interaction with law enforcement.

Jacob Tingen: But then when that interaction turns into an arrest by ICE, it erodes that trust in our justice system and it actually makes our communities less safe. And that’s kind of my problem with a lot of these enforcement tactics, is that it has this kind of opposite effect of where we want to get to it. The intent is that, oh, this is going to make our communities safer. But we know from experience that it simply does not make our communities safer. So interestingly, this article goes on, it talks about how they’re trying to work with local courts and with ICE to say, hey, don’t arrest people in our courtroom, in our court houses, or around our courthouses, or when people going to and from court. ICE has responded and said, well, if local jurisdictions cooperated with us, we’d be in a better position not to do that.

Jacob Tingen: But at the same time, it appears that as ICE has come into the courtroom, some judges have said, hey, you guys aren’t allowed in here, which is interesting. And judges of course have the power to control their courtroom. But there is no statewide policy or law to prevent them from being there. They can be there. And what’s interesting though is that there’s actually a bill that’s being proposed to make that statewide law to prevent them from being there. And what I find that’s sad, and I kind of wanted to point this out, is apparently the governor Jared Pollis or Polis threatened to veto a bill last year that limited cooperation between local and state law enforcement. So he threatened to veto this bill that was supposed to keep state and federal law enforcement separate. And what I think is just fascinating and why this is a problem, is the reason that this bill was proposed, it goes on, it says Polis was similarly opposed to provisions in an immigration bill being drafted last year called Virginia’s Law, named after a woman who called 911 to report being assaulted and was then detained by ICE.

Jacob Tingen: So, that is a problem. If you call law enforcement because you need assistance and then you’re the one that ends up getting arrested, we have done something wrong. Okay. And so, that’s what happens when we don’t protect people’s involvement and interaction with our court system, with our judicial system, with our criminal justice system. People might be going to court to testify. We’ve talked about this in the context of the U visa, that the whole point of the U visa is to make it safe for immigrants to report being the victim of a crime. The worst thing that immigrants are afraid of is if I have contact with law enforcement, well I’m going to get deported. But that’s not the case, or at least it shouldn’t be the case. Immigrants should be able to call the police, report a crime, provide support to our criminal justice system and know that they’re not going to be deported.

Jacob Tingen: And the point of the U visa is exactly that, that they won’t get deported. That instead, in exchange for participating in a positive way with our criminal justice system, we’re going to give you a visa, we’re going to let you stay. But this concept of going to our courthouses and arresting people there doesn’t further any of our goals. It doesn’t make a safer, it doesn’t protect us, and it goes against frankly our policies on a national level. So this enforcement idea that I should go to courthouses and arrest immigrants, I disagree with. And so, yeah, I mean that’s pretty much the gist of the article. So, it’s interesting that Colorado is trying to come up with some laws and some solutions to prevent this. But, even then there could be legal battles and those laws could be repealed.

Jacob Tingen: What we really need is to have more conversations like this, to have more discussions about these issues, which is why I’m doing this podcast, is because I want people to be informed. Now, the final thing that I would just want to touch on again, is that ICE, in this article, said the reason that they’re approaching people at courthouses houses is because local jurisdictions aren’t cooperating with them. But the reason local jurisdictions don’t cooperate with ICE is because ICE operates in an unconstitutional manner. So I think it’s time for Congress to step in and create laws that are legal and not unconstitutional that ICE can operate with. But I also think it’s time for ICE to have a personal reckoning and say, hey, maybe we aren’t doing everything above board. Because when they do, I don’t think people will have as many problems.

Jacob Tingen: So, thank you again for listening. This is today’s episode of Nation of Immigrants. I will be a little more active than I have been over the holidays and talking about immigration news. There’s been so much that we’ve missed and things that I kind of want to catch up on. So we’ll be talking about a lot of stuff here on the YouTube channel, but also feel free to follow us on iTunes, on Twitter, on Facebook. We’ll be around. Support the podcast. You can visit me at and support the podcast. We’re going to funnel those funds that we gain through the podcast to pay off immigrants’ legal bills. Thank you again, once again, for listening and hope to see you around soon.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to Nation of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

Announcer: Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, watch the live stream on YouTube and Facebook, or visit to learn more.

Share This Post

Related Articles

Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch within 1 business day!

Are you ready for a superior client experience?

We’re a Richmond, Virginia law firm with clients from around the world. Schedule your consultation today and let’s talk about what we can do for you!