Federal officials responded Friday to the California Chief Justice's criticisms of courthouse arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly say Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who make courthouse arrests are doing what is necessary and are acting within the law. That’s what they wrote in a response letter to California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s this week.
The letter criticizes Cantil-Sakauye for her recent claims that ICE agents are “stalking” undocumented immigrants in courthouses.
“Stalking has a specific meaning, which describes criminal activity involving repetitive following and harassment of the victim,” Sessions and Kelly's letter to Sakauye reads. “Your characterization of federal law enforcement officers is particularly troubling.”
Sessions and Kelly go on to say local sanctuary measures have eliminated many of the places, such as jails, where agents are allowed contact suspects. “As a result, ICE officers and agents are required to locate and arrest these aliens in public places,” they wrote.
They added, because courthouses screen for weapons at the entries, courthouses provide a place for agents to make a safe arrest.
Cantil-Sakauye has recently spoken out against the practice, arguing that ICE officials need to consider the consequences of arresting people inside courthouses. She says it creates fear and makes people reluctant to participate in the justice system.
“Witnesses and victims will no longer come to court to report or bear witness against the bad guys, and will not report crimes,” Sakauye told Capital Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler this week. “We encourage people to come to court because this is where you settle your disputes. It’s not vigilante justice…”
In a Sacramento town hall meeting earlier this week, acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said courthouse arrests are aimed at specific individuals with a criminal history and these arrests will continue.
“We don’t go to courthouses looking for victims. We don’t go to courthouses looking for witnesses,” Homan told the crowd.