Colorado legislation would prohibit ICE arrests in courthouses

Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country routinely make arrests in courthouses, as individuals appearing in courthouses are sometimes wanted for unrelated criminal or civil violations. For ICE to make arrests in courthouses is therefore consistent with established law enforcement practices.

Courthouse arrests for immigration violations are often made necessary by sanctuary jurisdictions, which refuse to transfer to ICE custody of aliens incarcerated in their prisons and jails. Those secure facilities happen to be the safest places for ICE to make an arrest.

Individuals entering courthouses are typically searched for weapons and other contraband. Therefore, immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses reduce risks to the public, to the targeted aliens, and to the ICE agents themselves. Prisons are the best option for public safety reasons — especially now that the focus of deportation efforts is specifically on alien criminals — but sanctuary jurisdictions refuse to honor ICE detainers. Therefore, attention shifts to courthouses by default.

Immigration advocates would expand the scope of ‘off-limits’ locations

ICE has a policy of avoiding enforcement actions in places classified as sensitive locations. This category includes, but is not limited to, schools, bus stops, medical facilities, places of worship, religious or civil observances, and public demonstrations.

At the end of March 2017, shortly after President Trump's inauguration and immigration became a regular front-page topic, legislation called the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act (H.R.1815) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would have amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to define an expanded set of locations declared off-limits to immigration law enforcement, and that classification would have included federal, state, and local courthouses.

The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act amassed 51 cosponsors, all of them Democrats, but in the Republican-dominated 115th U.S. Congress never went anywhere.

Inability to enact such a prohibition on the federal level has led activists to work at the state level, usually through the judiciary. In November, the person who was given the job of Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice enacted a new rule forbidding ICE agents from carrying out arrests inside or in the close vicinity of Oregon state courthouses. In adopting this rule, Oregon joined California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington.

Colorado Senate Bill 83: ‘Prohibit Courthouse Civil Arrest’

Legislation has been introduced in the Colorado Senate by Julie Gonzales, a Democrat who represents Denver County, that would protect an individual from civil arrest (immigration violations are civil, not criminal) in a courthouse and its environs, and while going to or coming from a court proceeding.

SB-83 pompously declares Access to courts is a cornerstone of Colorado's republican form of government and is therefore a matter of statewide concern, then repeats arguments that the practice of making civil arrests at a courthouses or their environs threatens the values of public access and the core functions of courts.

As if they're reluctantly shrugging their shoulders and explaining “Look, we're just doing what needs to be done,” the bill continues:

Courts have the affirmative obligation to assert their powers to ensure order and efficient functioning in their proceedings through exercising their contempt power and issuing writs in order to protect the dignity, independence, and integrity of proceedings.

A terrible error is made here: Before a tall tower can be constructed, a solid foundation must be established. Before one can speak of the dignity and integrity of judicial proceedings, one has to make sure that they aren't clown shows. A court system to which access by people whose very presence in the country is illegal is considered a matter of statewide concern, where officiating persons intentionally cover their eyes and pretend that there is no distinction between a citizen and an alien, is a clown show.

English common-law ‘Privilege From Arrest’

Since those trying to drive enforcement of federal immigration law out of the courthouses — for starters — are basically trying to make up new rules as they go along, they wind up resorting to searching English common law for a legal precedent. An old custom called Privilege From Arrest is their hoped-for precedent, and it is cited in Colorado SB-83.

William Blackstone described the custom as follows:

Suitors, witnesses, and other persons, necessarily attending any courts of record upon business, are not to be arrested during their actual attendance, which includes their necessary coming and returning. And no arrest can be made in the king’s presence, nor within the verge of his royal palace, nor in any place where the king’s justices are actually sitting.

Again, the buffoons in Colorado's legislature, judiciary and immigration advocacy groups are pretending they don't grasp the concepts of belonging and not belonging. Some people belong there and some people simply don't belong there in the first place. Surely the King of England understood that.

The movement to prevent immigration law enforcement in Colorado

Last year the Colorado General Assembly passed HB-1124, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from honoring ICE detainer requests. Detainers ask local law enforcement agencies to hold an inmate who is scheduled to be released for up to 48 hours past that time, so ICE can arrive and take them into custody.

The original version of that bill would have banned any type of cooperation with federal immigration authorities, but that part of the bill was removed, due in large part to pressure from Governor Jared Polis.

Julie Gonzales, cosponsor of this year's SB-83, was one of 2019 HB-1124's four “prime sponsors“. According to the Denver Post, she also plans to introduce a bill that would prevent disclosure of personal information stored in state databases, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, to ICE.

On January 29, the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee voted three to two to advance the bill to the “Committee of the Whole”, which is where the entire membership of one chamber becomes a “committee” for the purpose of debating bills for their second reading.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is not legal advice.