Two views of the pause in ICE courthouse arrests

Vaughan, Cameron have little they agree on

LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AGO, US District Court Judge Indira Talwani took the unprecedented step of approving a temporary injunction blocking US Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents from making civil arrests of undocumented immigrants in and around Massachusetts courthouses.

During a contentious discussion on the Codcast, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies and immigration attorney Matt Cameron broke down the history behind courthouse arrests in Massachusetts and what Talwani’s decision could mean.

The temporary injunction came after a lawsuit was filed against ICE in late April by district attorneys Marian Ryan and Rachael Rollins along with advocates, who have accused ICE of commandeering the state courts for immigration purposes. Talwani’s decision puts a hold on the implementation of an ICE directive that allows enforcement in courthouses.

Vaughan argued that ICE “doesn’t want to make arrests in courthouses.” She said the practice was occurring because Massachusetts sanctuary city policies restrict ICE officials from detaining undocumented immigrants in jails. She said arresting immigrants at their homes is unsafe for the public, ICE officers, and even the immigrant families.

Vaughan is the director of policy studies at the Washington, DC-based Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan research institute that examines the economic, security, and social impact of immigration. The organization challenged the Obama administration immigration enforcement policies and often lauds President Trump’s approach.

Cameron is the managing partner of Cameron Law Offices and the director of Golden Stairs Immigration Center, an East Boston non-profit immigration legal service provider. He also teaches immigration policy at Northeastern University.

Cameron said his concern with ICE is less about arresting people in courthouses and more about the arrests interfering with prosecutors and local prosecutions.

“You’ve deported someone in the middle of their case. You’re leaving them forever with an open questionmark,” Cameron said. “You’re leaving a victim without justice, you’re leaving the Commonwealth without a case.”

Vaughan said ICE has been singled out not only by the temporary injunction, but also by last year’s state Supreme Judicial Court decision — Lunn. v Commonwealth, which found that local law enforcement officials do not have the authority, under state law, to detain a person based solely on a request (called a detainer) from federal authorities.

“If an attorney or prosecutor wants ICE to wait until a case is finished, all they have to do is file a writ in court, and ICE will not deport people out from under cases here in the Commonwealth, especially the criminal cases,” Vaughan said.

Cameron, who has had five clients detained at courthouses in his presence, said Vaughan’s claim was untrue. He said people are often detained in the middle of their cases.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

There were very few points that the two could agree upon.

Vaughan said the lawsuit arose out of a “political difference of opinion,” and done for “political reasons.” Cameron said state prosecutors should not have to notify the federal government that they want to continue prosecutions. “It’s a slap in the face to state law enforcement,” he said.

While Vaughan said no specific victims have spoken publicly about being arrested at courthouses, Cameron referred her to the original complaint by plaintiffs, which includes specific dates and locations (but no names) where arrests occurred.