We recently talked about open borders enthusiasts who were upset over the possibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials showing up in or around courthouses for the purpose of taking illegal immigrants into custody for deportation. It seems that their complaints have been heard and now they have a judge on their side. This isn’t just any judge though. It’s the Chief Justice of the state supreme court in Washington who has sent a letter urging ICE officers to steer clear of the courthouses. (Associated Press)
The chief justice of the Washington state Supreme Court on Wednesday urged the Department of Homeland Security to keep immigration agents away from courthouses, saying it’s “deeply troubling” that lawyers and judges have reported seeing more of them recently.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst said the agents’ presence could scare people away from courthouses, including domestic violence victims and witnesses in criminal trials.
“When people are afraid to appear for court hearings, out of fear of apprehension by immigration officials, their ability to access justice is compromised,” Fairhurst wrote. “Their absence curtails the capacity of our judges, clerks and court personnel to function effectively.”
The number of things wrong with this situation are probably too great to count. First of all, even acknowledging that this letter has no binding force, there is the pesky issue of the separation of powers. Since when does a member of the state judiciary have any sort of authority over law enforcement officials working for the executive branch? Talk about overstepping your boundaries.
But even if we ignore that troubling aspect of the conversation, aren’t judges supposed to be in the business of upholding the law? I can, in theory at least, understand some of the concerns being expressed here. The judge doesn’t want to see potential witnesses (or even suspects scheduled for court hearings) failing to show up so that the court can get on with its duties. But an attitude such as this truly throws the baby out with the bathwater. If there is someone in the courthouse who the judge knows, or at least has reason to suspect is in the country illegally, it would seem that an officer of the court would be duty-bound to inform immigration enforcement officials so that the laws of the land can be upheld.
The concerns being expressed here are also overblown to begin with. The brief response provided by ICE officials states just what I suspected and suggested in the previous article I linked above. Going to apprehend someone at a courthouse is several steps down on the list of possible places to conduct their work. They first look for a valid home address or place of employment where the suspected illegal alien might be found. Unfortunately, if you are dealing with a frequently transient population of people who may be either unemployed or working off the books, obtaining such an address may prove impossible. They also take into consideration which location is most likely to result in a peaceful detention which doesn’t pose unnecessary risks to the public or to the officers themselves.
Sometimes that’s just going to wind up being a courthouse. And if that’s the case, ICE has to get their job done. If a few court cases are delayed or some illegal immigrants are inconvenienced, I’m afraid that’s just the price of doing business.