ICE asks judge to let agency back into courthouses
Motion to dismiss comes as detainment numbers down
FEDERAL IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS are seeking to dismiss a lawsuit that would bar agents from making arrests in local Massachusetts courthouses.
In April, Suffolk and Middlesex district attorneys Rachael Rollins and Marian Ryan filed the first federal lawsuit of its kind against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking to bar agents from making civil arrests in or around courthouses, in conjunction with immigrant advocacy group Chelsea Collaborative and Committee for Public Counsel Services.
CommonWealth broke the story about the lawsuit, and a temporary injunction was issued by US District Court Judge Indira Talwani in June, when she ordered the agency to stop its practice of making civil immigration arrests at courthouses for the duration of the lawsuit.
On Friday, ICE filed a motion asking Talwani to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that ICE has longstanding authority granted by Congress to arrest immigrants in and around courthouses.
The defendants also claimed that Tenth Amendment arguments that reserve states’ rights over areas not spelled out in the Constitution is void because Rollins, Ryan, and the other plaintiffs haven’t pointed to a specific case in which an immigrant was blocked from filing a lawsuit because they were detained at a courthouse before making the filing.
“The access-to-the-courts claim fails because Plaintiffs make only general allegations and have not shown that the federal government has wrongfully blocked the filing of a specific lawsuit,” write the attorneys for ICE.
Ryan and Rollins claim ICE’s actions area violation of the Tenth Amendment.
The lawsuit said ICE has decided to “flout” common-law privilege against civil courthouse arrests and “commandeer” the state courts for federal immigration purposes. The complaint said noncitizen witnesses often do not appear for fear of arrest or deportation, and criminal defendants refuse to appear in court, choosing to default rather than risk detention and removal by ICE.
Rollins said Talwani’s decision to issue the preliminary injunction earlier this year “speaks to the strength of our case.”
“It is local prosecutors who are holding violent, criminal offenders accountable. My office has had to find and return to Suffolk County violent criminals to stand trial. These are individuals whom ICE had deported for a civil, immigration infraction prior to their criminal trials,” Rollins told CommonWealth. “Those deportations by ICE did nothing to keep our community safe, did not provide justice for victims, and were done without notifying us or our victims. We, as local prosecutors, have real victims that have been injured and deserve their day in court. I will always fight for victims, witnesses, and survivors and for immigrants, as they are often one and the same.”
Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that represents immigrants who are a part of Chelsea Collaborative and who claim to have been detained by ICE during courthouse proceedings, said the motion raises no new arguments.
According to several sources, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has respected the temporary injunction. But the agency is not pleased with how things have played out.
Last week, the Boston field office for ICE released statistics showing the lowest number of immigration-related arrests in two years.
Marcos Charles, acting field director of the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arm, said the injunction played a role in the decline.
“The secure environment of a jail or a courthouse where we can easily take that person into custody has been taken away in that jurisdiction,” he told MassLive. “Not only is it more of a danger to the officers, now you’re putting officers into residential communities looking for the targeted aliens.”
The Boston field office, which oversees six states, made 2,469 administrative arrests in fiscal 2019, a 15 percent drop from the previous year. According to federal data administrative, or civil, arrests dropped from 252 in May to 126 in June after the temporary injunction hit.The next scheduling conference will be focused on discovery, and is set for January 22.