The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says immigration agents are authorized to arrest crime victims and witnesses at courthouses, amid scrutiny of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement tactics.
“Just because they’re a victim in a certain case does not mean there’s not something in their background that could cause them to be a removable alien,” DHS spokesman David Lapan said Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.
“Just because they’re a witness doesn’t mean they might not pose a security threat for other reasons,” he told reporters. Lapan said the factors inspiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to make an arrest “could be any number of things.”
“I can’t give a blanket statement that says every witness and victim is somehow untouchable, because they may have circumstances in their own case that would make them again subject to arrest,” he said.
“Again, the categories that we’ve talked about that make them subject to arrest or potential removal still apply to somebody who might him or herself be a victim.”
Court officials have complained that ICE agents going to local courthouses could scare potential witnesses and victims from reporting crimes, the Post noted.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye earlier this month criticized how the Trump administration is arresting undocumented immigrants.
“As Chief Justice of California responsible for the safe and fair delivery of justice in our state, I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” she wrote in a March 16 letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Kelly and Sessions last week retorted that arresting people near courthouses is required because of the protections so-called sanctuary cities provide to immigrants within the U.S. illegally.
“Some jurisdictions, including the State of California and many of its largest counties and cities, have enacted statues and ordinances designed to specifically prohibit or hinder ICE from enforcing immigration law,” the pair wrote in a March 31 letter to the judge.
“Agents are required to locate and arrest these aliens in public places, rather than in secure jail facilities.”
Trump and his administration have vowed to crack down on sanctuary cities, which do not assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws.
Sessions announced last week that state and local governments seeking Department of Justice (DOJ) grants must certify they are not sanctuary cities before receiving the money.