Sunday Commentary: Experts Warn that ICE Arrest in Sac Courtroom Will Have Chilling Effect across the State

This week the Vanguard broke the news that ICE Agents entered Sacramento Superior Court last week, handcuffed an immigrant and made an arrest inside a courtroom, the first of its type in the state.  Quickly other news organizations released follow up reports (Capitol Public Radio, Sacramento Bee).

One reason cities across the state have created Sanctuary Cities and one reason for those Sanctuary Cities is they believe that in order for immigrants to cooperate with police, report crimes, and serve as witnesses in court, those immigrants have to have a belief that they will not be investigated and face deportation.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck endorsed SB 54 last year, arguing it was “an important proposal that protects the trust between his department and the neighborhoods it polices.

“We depend on our communities, particularly the immigrant communities, not only to keep them safe but to keep all of you safe,” Chief Beck said. “Without that cooperation we all suffer.”

A report from the ACLU found that, under President Trump, “some crimes, such as domestic violence, have become tougher to prosecute because of increased fears on the part of immigrants.”

The report said immigrants are fearful of “immigration consequences,” including the possibility of deportation, so they are not helping police.

More importantly, the report found that immigrants who are crime victims are staying away “from courthouses where they could testify because they fear arrest by immigration authorities.”

These findings are based on a survey of 232 law enforcement officers in 24 states – as well as hundreds of others across all 50 states, including judges, prosecutors, survivor advocates and legal service providers.

“Prosecutors surveyed stated that in prior years, as cooperation between prosecutors and immigrant communities increased, survivors of crime were increasingly willing to come forward and assist law enforcement in prosecuting cases,” the ACLU report said. “However, over the past year, many categories of crimes have become more difficult to prosecute as a result of an increase in fear of immigration consequences.”

What the ACLU found was 82 percent of prosecutors reported that, since President Trump’s election, “domestic violence is now underreported and harder to investigate and/or prosecute.”  About 70 percent of prosecutors reported the same for sexual assault, 55 percent for human trafficking and 48 percent for child abuse.

In 2017, the NPR did a story in Texas, where one Houston police officer told them, “People are afraid to talk to the police, and how does that help us as police do our job?”

His observation was backed by data from the Houston Police Department.  Chief Art Acevedo told NPR, “Hispanics reporting sexual assault have dropped nearly 43 percent in the first three months of this year, compared to last year. And the number of Hispanic-reported robberies and aggravated assaults are each down 12 percent.

“What we’ve created is a chilling effect that we’re already starting to see the beginning of,” Chief Acevedo said. “They’re afraid that we’re more interested as a society in deporting them than we are in bringing justice to the victims of crime.”

While the case in Sacramento involved the arrest of a defendant, the concern across the state is that this action will simply reinforce the possibility to immigrants that they will face deportation if they come forward and cooperate with law enforcement or show up in court.

“This will turn the judicial system on its head,” Sacramento attorney Charles Pacheco, who represented the man arrested, told the Sacramento Bee.

The judge in that court, Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown, issued a statement to the Sacramento Bee “explaining that judges do not prevent lawful arrest warrants from being enforced.

“Remanding on an outstanding arrest warrant issued by another jurisdiction is the province of the Sheriff’s department,” Judge Brown said. “It happens on a regular basis, particularly in large felony arraignments courts. The court was mindful of the concerns raised by counsel about a chilling effect on undocumented persons coming to court – one articulated far more thoughtfully by the Chief Justice of California – but such concerns could not impede enforcing a lawfully-issued warrant at the moment.”

A year ago, in a letter from California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, she told the federal government to stay out of state courts.

“I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests. Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” she said.

The Chief Justice explained, “Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law.”

Katherine Carlson, an attorney working in the Sacramento Public Defender’s Office, told the Bee she witnessed Wednesday’s arrest.  She indicated that, while the arrest might be legally correct, it has a chilling effect.

“This stuff shouldn’t be happening,” she said.  “There were some of those people sitting in court watching this thing go down.”  She was “referring to others who are undocumented and might be witnesses or victims.”

Next time the authorities need cooperation on a case, maybe the witnesses and victims will not be willing to go come forward.  And then what?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Jerry Waszczuk

    ICE Agents entered Sacramento Superior Court last week, handcuffed an immigrant and made an arrest inside a courtroom, the first of its type in the state.  

    I think that  it  would be  no different for immigrant  if ICE would arrest him /her  outside the Court Room instead of  inside the a courtroom . Why this event is  such a  big deal .?  Apparently immigrant broke the law of this  country and is paying   consequences for his/her bad  behavior .

    1. David Greenwald

      Here is what the Presiding Judge in Sacramento said today:

      “Arrests that occur inside of a state courthouse and especially inside of a courtroom are disruptive of courtroom proceedings,” De Alba said a statement. “Our Court regrets the decision by ICE agents to execute an arrest warrant inside one of our courtrooms. The fear of immigration arrest deters witnesses and crime victims from coming forward to participate in the prosecution of crimes and the resolution of child custody, landlord-tenant, personal injury, and other claims”
      Read more here:

  2. Jerry Waszczuk

    I understand what you saying but  I am not sure if Chuck Pachecco  was right by  criticizing Judge  Lawrence Brown that he was weak and that he had no control of his control room .
    The Sacramento County Superior Court is a big Court and I believe that many judges are welcoming ICE to come to court and take out illegal immigrants which  allegedly committed crime .  Judges political view  could one reason .  Another reason is a Court’s  budget constrain.  Judges were most likely instructed NOT  to go over the budget in their departments . By taking guy away by ICE is a pure saving and ICE is being treaded as budget savior.
    I know this for fact .  In 2015 another Judge Brown from the  Sacramento County Superior Court in 2015   sent Lodi Police to my home in Lodi  to take me  out. After I came back home from  the  Court hearing , two Lodi cops were waiting for me at my door and after short conversation with they left .  
     Judge  Martin Duane from the  San Joaquin Superior Court told me up front of my attorney in his  Court Room that the  lawsuits are expensive for immigrants in this country . It happened just after I finished the special course in Delta College which prepared me for the U.S citizenship.  After the  Judge Duane Martin’s expression about immigrants in this country I dropped the idea to become the citizen of the United States of America. .  That Judge screwed my American Dream forever . 
    The following are only a few of the effects of the California court budget cuts:
    More than 100 courtrooms have closed statewide, more than 50 in Los Angeles County alone.
    More than 2,600 court employees have lost their jobs.
    Twenty California counties close court doors one day every month.
    Court window services have been cut by 75 percent in Sacramento, dramatically increasing lines.
    Paying a traffic ticket in San Francisco can take four hours.
    Parties must wait weeks for a court mediator. In Stanislaus County, parents must wait 17 weeks for a family court mediator.
    Eleven counties do not have the resources to order domestic violence restraining orders on the day they are filed.
    In personal injuries cases , the effects of the budget crisis can be felt in the significant delays and additional expenses, including paying for their own court reporter. Many litigants will need to travel long distances just to have their day in court.
    Follow the money and learn the true as a Russian immigrant Marina Ruminsev was writing frequently on DV
    Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye released the following statement after Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed the Budget Act for fiscal year 2017–2018:

    I am pleased with the provision for funding legal aid organizations and those attorneys representing foster children, but I remain disappointed that our underfunded court system did not receive more help. Chronic underfunding of the courts unfairly affects members of the public seeking their day in court. Trial courts receive a little more than a penny for every general fund tax dollar, and in the past the judicial branch has had funds swept to support the state budget during times of crisis. Now the courts have an ongoing funding crisis, new laws are added annually, there are more complex cases, but there is no stable funding solution for the judicial branch and the people we all serve.


    1. David Greenwald

      Part of the issue is that under SB 54, ICE should not be coming into the court house to arrest folks. The judiciary has a concerned that it will dissuade people from coming forward to report crimes and be witnesses.

  3. Jerry Waszczuk

    Immigration officials arrest 150 workers in massive raid on Texas trailer manufacturer

    The investigation began when HSI received tips that the company had knowingly hired undocumented immigrants, and that the illegal workers were using fraudulent identification documents, ICE said in a press release.
    “Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger. “In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce.”


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