Immigration Law

Federal judge blocks ICE from making civil immigration arrests at courthouses

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On Thursday, a federal judge in Boston granted a preliminary injunction that blocks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from making civil arrests at state courthouses in Massachusetts.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani ruled in a suit filed by two district attorneys, public defenders and immigration advocates, report the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the New England Public Radio and USA Today. The Marshall Project noted the decision.

It is thought to be the first time a judge has enjoined civil courthouse arrests of people who are in the country illegally.

The injunction blocks the civil arrests of parties, witnesses and others who are going to, attending, or leaving Massachusetts courthouses on official business. Criminal arrests are not blocked nor are civil arrests of people brought to state courthouses in state or federal custody.

Talwani said the injunction was justified because of a common law privilege against civil courthouse arrests that was incorporated into the judicial system.

Talwani found standing to sue by the plaintiffs: district attorneys in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, a public defender group called the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and an immigrant rights group known as the Chelsea Collaborative.

All three groups were affected, Talwani said. People who are reluctant to go to court can harm prosecutors’ ability to fight crimes and public defenders’ ability to represent clients. The ability of collaborative members to secure their rights also was affected by the arrests, according to Talwani.

Talwani issued the decision while a separate case involving courthouse arrests plays out in federal court in Boston. Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and a court officer were charged with obstruction for allegedly helping an immigrant evade ICE in the courthouse in April 2018.

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