Recent events make us wonder whether there is anything the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Trump Administration will not do to give the appearance that they are actually protecting the country. They certainly have many in the immigrant communities living in fear of them and law enforcement in general.
Part of that fear may come from the fact that there has been an increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents staking out courthouses to detain undocumented immigrants. Although this phenomenon is not new and is sometimes necessary for a few severe situations, these new revelations show us that the Trump administration is continuing to blur the lines of power and authority.
Although there are many alarming examples to choose from, one that sticks out comes from Pontiac, Michigan in March of this year. As reported by The New Yorker, Sergio Perez, a father of three, went to court for custody of his children whom he had reason to believe could be in harm’s way due to the fact that the children’s mother was living with an ex-boyfriend that she herself had taken out a protective order against. Mr. Perez, looking out for the best interest of his children and without any regard for his own safety went to family court to seek protection for them, but was not allowed to see a judge because he was accosted by plain clothes ICE agents and arrested inside the court while he was waiting to see the family court judge.
As noted by Steve Coll for The New Yorker, there appears to be pattern of ICE officers targeting immigrants at state and local courts. Some of the examples from an immigrant Defense investigation are: in April, a Pakistani-born father who appeared in Family Court on a visitation matter was arrested and he was the primary custodian of two children who were US Citizens; in June, ICE officers followed and arrested a woman in Queens, after she had appeared in Human Trafficking Intervention Court and was walking to the subway; and, ICE agents recently on September 27th arrested an alleged victim of domestic violence as he left Queens County Criminal Court. These are just a few of many, many examples of how ICE Officers are preying upon immigrants who are victims seeking protection or are otherwise trying to use the courts to protect their families.
Glenn Fogle, a nationally recognized top immigration attorney, who has represented immigrants in courts throughout the country, is now advising his clients not enter the courtrooms alone just in case he has to intercede in an ICE arrest attempt.
“This surge in courthouse arrests of immigrants not only has a negative impact in the immigrant community but actually disrupts the very purpose of our Judicial System when defendants and victims are prevented from pursuing their legal rights in criminal and domestic matters either through actual arrests by ICE or fear of being arrested when they attend court,” stated Fogle. These dirty and disruptive tactics by ICE has created a chilling of the reporting of crimes against those in immigrant communities and subsequently affects and threatens public safety due to the victims’ fear of reporting crime against them or their families—a majority of whom are either legal or U.S. citizens.” He said.
He continued, “What’s worse is the Trump administration justifies these unethical arrests with no oversight and no Judge’s involvement is needed for an ICE warrant and we have no way of knowing how ICE even identifies its targets from court dockets especially in privileged settings such as Juvenile and Family Court.”
Fogle concludes, “This is not the America I was born in and these shameful actions have to stop.”
These increasing unethical actions further amplifies why Congress should stop prolonging the suffering caused by a broken immigration system that is being abused further by Trump and his administration and pass fair comprehensive immigration reform that will build up and strengthen our country of immigrants.