Attorney General James Leads Coalition Fighting
to Halt Immigration Arrests at State Courthouses
14 AGs Files Amicus Supporting Washington State’s Lawsuit Against DHS, ICE, and CBP
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 14 attorneys general in continuing efforts to halt federal immigration arrests of noncitizens without a judicial warrant or court order in and around state courthouses throughout the nation. In an amicus brief filed in State of Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; et al., Attorney General James and the coalition argue in support of Washington State's request for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt such arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“With every arrest in and around state courthouses, ICE continues to endanger our communities and our public safety,” said Attorney General James. “These arrests not only have chilling effects on immigrant communities, but stop our courts from operating properly and thus prevent justice from prevailing. While we pursue our own lawsuit against ICE to halt these illegal arrests, we are leading a coalition of attorneys general from around the nation to stop the Trump Administration’s attempt to target and intimidate immigrant communities.”
Last month, the Office of the Washington State Attorney General sued ICE, the CBP, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among others, arguing that the federal government’s policy and practice of arresting noncitizens — both undocumented and those with legal status alike — at or around state courthouses violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Tenth Amendment, and the right of access to courts, which is protected by the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Washington filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the Trump Administration’s policies.
Today, Attorney General James is leading a coalition in support of Washington’s motion for a preliminary injunction. In the brief — filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington — the coalition argues that the federal government’s arrest practice is common across the states that are a party to the brief and are in violation of a common law privilege against civil arrests at courthouses. The amicus further maintains that the federal government’s practice of conducting civil immigration arrests is deeply harmful to the effective functioning of our court systems.
In September, Attorney General James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez filed their own lawsuit against ICE, challenging the legality of arresting immigrants in or around state courthouses. The suit seeks to halt a two-year pattern of civil immigration arrests by federal ICE agents in and around state courts, which have caused a major disruption to state court operations. By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned, or never pursued, making communities less safe.
After Attorney General James and DA Gonzalez filed their lawsuit, President Trump and his Administration immediately filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit outright, but, last month, Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against the president and said, “Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings.”
New York’s lawsuit will now move forward with a trial expected this spring.
Since President Trump’s took office, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed by over 1,700-percent in New York, leading to a widespread, chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested while appearing in and around state courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals; among others.
Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the state.
Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Daniela Nogueira, Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo, and Deputy Solicitor General Steven Wu.