Amid vows from the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration, some city and state officials are trying to calm immigrants’ fear with legislation to prohibit arrests in courthouses, schools, workplaces and other spots where immigrants gather.
The legal rationale for the proposals is not always clear. State and local governments may not have the power to keep immigration agents from arresting people in courthouses or on public streets near churches and schools, where some recent arrests have been made.
What is clear is that fear of deportation is keeping immigrants from sending children to school, showing up for medical appointments, and appearing in court as witnesses or for other reasons.
The tense situation is, at least in part, an unintended consequence of so-called sanctuary policies, under which cities and counties refuse to hold prisoners for possible deportation. In addition, some sheriffs have questioned the legality of “detainers,” or requests from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold prisoners.
The increased difficulty of arresting immigrants has driven ICE to make more raids in other places, including courthouses.
“Now that many law enforcement agencies no longer honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat,” said Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman.