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Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court asks ICE to stop prowling courthouses

In a March 22 letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Honorable Mary Fairhurst expressed her concern about the increased presence of Federal agents in and around local courthouses, stating that fear of apprehension by immigration authorities erodes immigrants’ trust in the judicial system, “impede[s] the fundamental mission of courts, which is to ensure due process and access to justice for everyone,” and undermines courts’ ability to function.

Not just criminal defendants, but also those who are witnesses to or victims of crimes, might understandably choose not to voluntarily attend judicial proceedings given the risk of being snatched up and placed in deportation proceedings. Even legal residents seeking protection orders, for example, might think that is too risky, given ICE’s disturbing tactic of sweeping up collateral bystanders they suspect “may” be subject to removal.[1]

While Justice Fairhurst expressed her respect for the Department of Homeland Security’s mission, she requested that DHS take steps to ensure that “the manner in which these obligations and duties are carried out aligns with, and does not impede, the mission, obligations, and duties of our courts.” Fairhurst suggested that the DHS designate courthouses as “sensitive locations” and expressed her willingness to meet and explore other possible resolutions.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California sent DHS a similar letter the previous week.[2]

[1] “During… enforcement operations ICE officers frequently encounter additional suspects who may be in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. Those persons will be evaluated on a case by case basis and, when appropriate, arrested by ICE.” (See also: