ICE Activities in and Around Courthouses

The immigrant rights community in Oregon has, for some time, been concerned with the enhanced tendency of ICE to engage in enforcement activities in and around courthouses. Questioning or detention of immigrants around the court severely undermines equal access to the law, since witnesses and litigants will be deterred from seeking justice in the courts if there is even the perception that these spaces are not safe.

In a welcome move, the Biden Customs and Border Patrol agency has released new guidance about ICE enforcement activities around the courts. The new policy expresses concern that ICE activity at courthouses may interfere with the administration of justice, and urges consideration of this ill effect. It does require that such actions be documented and reported. However, the policy is riddled with exceptions, and it does not say anywhere that ICE may not carry out enforcement activities at courthouses. It promises that the Secretary of Homeland Security will adopt further guidance. We urge the development of policy that truly restrains ICE from using courthouses as an arena for enforcement activity.

NWJP has worked with other concerned organizations to win adoption by the Oregon Supreme Court of a rule for Oregon courts prohibiting ICE enforcement in state courthouses in most circumstances. Then, in the last session of the legislature, HB 3265 was enacted, prohibiting the collection and sharing of certain immigration-related information, and flatly prohibiting warrantless immigration arrests on courthouse grounds. We hope that these state prohibitions will be incorporated in Homeland Security directives, and that ICE will honor them in practice.

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