Immigration Enforcement at Massachusetts Courthouses: A Growing Threat

Information Uncovered Through The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice’s Public Records Requests Concerning Federal Immigration Enforcement 

Federal immigration authorities have traditionally avoided immigration enforcement at courthouses. This has been done in recognition of the fact that we as a nation are stronger if immigrant families are not deterred from participating in court proceedings. If individuals fear that going to court will subject them or their families to immigration enforcement, then they become reluctant to report crimes or serve as witnesses in legal proceedings. Battered women are chilled from seeking restraining orders against their abusers, and in general the public’s sense of security in accessing justice is undermined.

Following the election of President Trump in November 2016, however, immigrant rights advocates began hearing anecdotally about an unprecedented increase in immigration enforcement activities at courthouses. Subsequently, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in July 2017 (Commonwealth v. Lunn), prohibiting state officials from detaining individuals based solely on federal civil immigration detainers.

The Lawyers’ Committee responded to these events by filing public records requests with both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Massachusetts Trial Courts, to uncover the depth of the problem of ICE enforcement activities in Massachusetts courthouses from 2016-2017.

Today, the Lawyers’ Committee released a fact sheet on immigration enforcement activities in Massachusetts (the fact sheet is available below). 

Key information uncovered includes:

  • Targeting courthouses is a new and intentional policy of the Trump Administration.
  • Targeting courthouses is a new federal tactic employed in direct response to Massachusetts court decisions that ICE deemed to be unfavorable.
  • ICE enforcement at courthouses is not limited to targeting people accused of violent crimes. Recent courthouse detentions have targeted people accused for minor motor vehicles violations.
  • Judges are expressing significant concerns about the effect that these targeting schemes will have on the ability of victims and witnesses to effectively use the courts.
  • ICE detentions are occurring in and around numerous different courthouses in Massachusetts. This is a map of the courthouses recently targeted for enforcement action by ICE:

ICE in Courts

 

Learn more about immigration enforcement activities in courthouses on NPR’s All Things Considered.

The complete fact sheet is available here:

Immigration Enforcement at Massachusetts Courthouses FINAL FOR PUBLIC RELEASE