By Farhad Sethna, Attorney, Copyright 2018
On January 10, 2018, USICE issued Directive number 11072.1, titled “Civil Immigration Enforcement Actions Inside Courthouses”.
To summarize, ICE states what has already become a reality over the last year: that ICE agents will enter courthouses in search of aliens who may then be placed in removal proceedings, or be detained and removed from the United States. This includes: targeted aliens with criminal convictions, gang members, national security or public safety threats, aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States but have failed to depart, and aliens who have re-entered the country illegally after being removed.
Other aliens who are “encountered” during a civil immigration enforcement action inside the courthouse, such as family members or friends accompanying the target alien to court appearances or serving as a witness in the proceeding, will not be subject to immigration enforcement action.
ICE has also been instructed that they should avoid enforcement actions in court houses or areas within court houses that are dedicated to non-criminal proceedings, such as family court or small claims court.
What is the reality of this “guidance”?
The reality, based on the way that ICE has been conducting business over the last year, indicates that all aliens who are picked up in such an action or who are unintentionally “encountered” by ICE at the courthouse are likely to be detained and processed for removal from the United States if they do not have legal status in the US. This might even include individuals who are protected under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
This Directive casts a chilling effect upon witnesses who may be called to testify in proceedings, especially when those witnesses may lack immigration status, or whose immigration status may be tenuous, for example, DACA recipients, U-visa applicants, or other aliens with pending but not yet approved applications for benefits.
It also calls into question the sincerity of the very mandate of the Department of “Homeland Security”. If courts are not able to process criminal cases, and aliens are afraid to testify in criminal or other places, how does DHS protect and enhance Homeland Security? How is Homeland Security improved by letting US citizen criminals go free because alien witnesses against them are too scared to come to court to report crimes or to testify?
Instead, the promise of homeland security becomes corrupted and fraught with negative connotation. DHS politicizes the issue by claiming that such courthouse actions are required because jurisdictions are unwilling to “cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens form their prisons and jails.” Simply put, that’s a lie. Politics should not interfere with the orderly process of the state’s criminal justice system. But that’s the reality with this administration.
This directive confirms what has been ICE practice over the last year. It will doubtless cast a chilling effect on the appearance of aliens for court proceedings, whether civil or criminal, and will further reduce the cooperation of aliens with civil and criminal authorities to secure and safeguard their own families and neighborhoods.
How does making our streets, our neighborhoods, and our homes LESS safe correlate with “Making America Great Again?” Ask yourself this question. Seriously.
Copyright, Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2018
Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 25 years. He was awarded his JD in 1990 and his MBA in 1991, both from the University of Akron. Since 1996, he has also been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio, where he wrote and used his own immigration textbook. Attorney Sethna is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. He has won awards for excellence in teaching and for pro-bono service. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and New Philadelphia, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases before federal agencies and the immigration courts nationwide. A private pilot, it is Farhad’s goal to fly to each of Ohio’s 88 county airports. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.