Oregon may face ICE push-back on new limits for courthouse arrests

Under a new rule enacted Thursday by Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are forbidden from arresting immigrants inside or near the state's courthouses unless the agents first receive warrants from a judge.

ICE officials have had a chilly relationship with the state concerning the policy. The agency said in a stern statement it will continue its objective. It remains unclear if that means ICE plans to directly defy Walter’s latest ruling, but could indicate a confrontation may occur.

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“Despite attempts to prevent ICE officers from doing their jobs, ICE will continue to carry out its mission to uphold public safety and enforce immigration law, and consider carefully whether to refer those who obstruct our lawful enforcement efforts for criminal prosecution," the ICE statement said.

ICE has turned to courthouses to arrest immigrants who qualify for deportation because local policies have prevented county jails and state prisons from cooperating to allow wanted individuals to be transferred to the custody of immigration officials, the statement continued.

“It is ironic that elected officials want to see policies in place to keep ICE out of courthouses, while caring little for laws enacted by Congress to keep criminal aliens out of our country,” the statement read.

In a news release discussing the new rules restricting ICE agents, Walters said she wasn’t favoring one side or the other, but she is trying to stop ICE agents from disrupting criminal proceedings.

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“Adopting this rule protects the integrity of the state judicial process and will allow state courts to fully hold accountable people accused of a crime,” Walters said. “Arrests in courthouses have interfered with judicial proceedings and removed criminal defendants before they have been sentenced or completed their sentences. We are adopting this rule to maintain the integrity of our courts and provide access to justice – not to advance or oppose any political or policy agenda.”

The new rules advanced by Walters specifically concern ICE inside state court buildings or around them – including entryways, sidewalks and parking lots, OregonLive.com reported.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum applauded Walters for adopting the new rules - saying because of it “Oregon will become a safer and more welcoming place for all,” a statement released by her office said. Rosenblum said the rule will protect witnesses, victims, jurors, defendants and others from ICE interference.

Immigrant rights advocates cheered Walters’ restrictions.

“Everyone is applauding the decision,” said Sarah Armstrong, a spokeswoman for ACLU of Oregon.

Anger over immigration arrests at courthouses has flared since President Trump’s election. Within days of Trump taking office in January 2017, advocates for immigrants began reporting some highly public arrests or attempted arrests by ICE agents wearing plainclothes and offering little or no explanation.

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In October, advocates requested a state committee approve a rule similar to the one Walters enacted Thursday. Advocates also asked Walters to take action on her own, which she did Thursday.

With Thursday’s Oregon’s ruling, the state joins six others -- California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Washington -- in limiting or blocking ICE agents from making arrests in courthouses.

Walters left open the possibility the rule could be changed at a future date. Public comment on the new rule will start in mid-December and may be addressed by clicking here. The state’s Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee plans to discuss the rule in April.