SALEM, OR (KPTV) - A new rule has been put in place that prohibits U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from making arrests in Oregon state courthouses without a judicial arrest warrant.
The Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee recommended the action, stating ICE agents previously made arrests in courthouses “acting only on their own administrative warrants.”
Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters enacted the rule Thursday.
"Adopting this rule protects the integrity of the state judicial process and will allow state courts to fully hold accountable people accused of a crime," Walters said. "Arrests in courthouses have interfered with judicial proceedings and removed criminal defendants before they have been sentenced or completed their sentences. We are adopting this rule to maintain the integrity of our courts and provide access to justice not to advance or oppose any political or policy agenda."
The final rule reflects the committee's recommendation and prohibits non-judicial arrests only in court facilities or their vicinity, including entryways, sidewalks and parking lots.
The rule does not require judges to take any specific enforcement action, but also does not limit their ability to enforce this rule or other laws.
The rule will be posted for public comment in mid-December and reviewed by the UTCR Committee in April 2020.
Once posted, people can comment at courts.oregon.gov.
The ACLU calls the new rule a huge win, saying, ICE agents dressed in plain clothes are using the court system to make violent, aggressive arrests without any kind of warrant.
It hopes Thursday’s decision will allow all Oregonians to feel safe when going to court, especially those who fear this could happen to them.
ACLU of Oregon attorney Leland Baxter-Neal says ICE arrests inside or near Oregon courtrooms happen every month.
He says he’s deeply concerned that agents are using public records to profile and essentially trap people when they least expect it.
“I received a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to challenge a speeding ticket, and he was afraid to come in to court,” Baxter-Neal said. “He was afraid because of his skin tone that he might be harassed by ICE.”
But Thursday’s decision from the Oregon Supreme Court, he says, could help change that.
“This rule will affect really a broad spectrum of individuals but especially communities of color, and immigrants – communities who’ve been the targets of ICE’s courthouse operations,” Baxter-Neal said.
ICE previously declined Oregon's request to add courthouses to its list of "sensitive locations" such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship where arrests require "higher-level supervisory permission or exigent circumstances," according to a statement from Walters.
An ICE spokesperson sent a statement to FOX 12 on Thursday regarding the new rule, saying, “ICE ERO officers have been provided broad at-large arrest authority by Congress and may lawfully arrest removable aliens in courthouses, which is often necessitated by local policies that prevent law enforcement from cooperating with ICE efforts to arrange for a safe and orderly transfer of custody in the setting of a state or county prison or jail and put political rhetoric before public safety.”
An ICE spokesperson called it “ironic” for elected officials to keep ICE out of courthouses, “while caring little for laws enacted by Congress to keep criminal aliens out of our country.”
“ICE will continue to carry out its mission to uphold public safety and enforce immigration law, and consider carefully whether to refer those who obstruct our lawful enforcement efforts for criminal prosecution.”
Walters said she will continue working with federal law enforcement agencies.
After New Jersey and New York, Oregon is the third state in the country to create this rule.
Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.