ICE Policy Insults Courts by Not Treating Them as “Sensitive Locations.” This Calls for Far More Forceful Response By National Access and Court Organizations.

This from the ICE FAQ page says it all:

Are courthouses sensitive locations?

Courthouses do not fall under ICE or CBP’s policies concerning enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations.

In other words, courts are not the kind of places to which people should be able to go without being in fear.  In contrast, the following (described as “includ[ing], but not be[ing] limited to” is the listing of such locations:

  • Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop;
  • Medical treatment and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities;
  • Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
  • Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings; and
  • During public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade.

It’s hard to figure the logic, and it gets worse.  It turns out that courts, are the only institutions explicitly listed as not being such “sensitive locations.”  (There are other kinds of exemptions, but they are not similarly institution focused.)

The Chief Justice of California responded appropriately by letter to the AG and Homelad Security:

Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.

Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.

But I would urge that the courts and their national organizations respond specifically to the singling out of courts for explicit exemption from being “sensitive locations.”  This, to me, is an implicit acknowledgement that many might reasonably have expected courts to be on the list, particularly given the length and comprehensiveness of the list.

It is particularly contemptuous (used colloquially) that agencies that are essentially prosecutorial should behave this way to courts, which are invested by our society and constitution with the highest expectation of neutrality as “safe spaces”.

From a political point of view, it is surely far easier to argue that courts are at least as critical as the forums listed above, than to argue that courts deserve special treatment.  This is simply a parity argument, and it should be much easier for courts and the legal profession, and their organizations and supporters to make such an appeal to common sense.

OK folks, let’s us, and they, hear from you.



About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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