Portland, Ore.一Yesterday evening, a broad coalition of community-based advocacy, legal defense, policy development, and social services organizations filed a brief in federal district court in Washington in which they describe how ICE’s terrifying arrest tactics in state courthouses across the Pacific Northwest limit access to courts and fundamentally compromises our justice system.
The organizations, working in both Oregon and Southwest Washington, filed an amicus brief (meaning “friend of the court”) in support of the State of Washington’s effort to ban Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from conducting arrests at state courthouses, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington.
The organizations describe first-hand accounts of litigants, witnesses, victims, and other community members choosing not to file protective orders, seek marriage licenses, serve as witnesses, or protect their workplace rights due to fear of ICE activity; driving them further into the shadows of civil society. On several occasions, volunteer legal observers have witnessed and captured video footage of ICE engaging in racial profiling and using physical force against individuals, their families, and bystanders, often in the middle of a pending case.
“ICE’s unlawful and destructive courthouse arrest policy has fundamentally compromised our court system and prevented citizens and noncitizens alike from seeking justice,” said Nadia Dahab, Senior Staff Attorney with Innovation Law Lab. “In Oregon, we have seen the impacts of this policy in communities statewide. We are optimistic that the federal district court in Washington, like our state supreme court, will put an end to it.”
The organizations include Causa Oregon, Adelante Mujeres, Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), Northwest Workers’ Justice Project (NWJP), Immigration Counseling Service (ICS), Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), Latino Network, VIVA Inclusive Migrant Network (VIVA), Pueblo Unido, American Immigration Lawyers Association of Oregon (AILA Oregon), Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Rural Organizing Project (ROP), and Unite Oregon. The organizations are represented by Innovation Law Lab, the ACLU of Oregon, and Miller Nash Graham & Dunn.
After years of ICE agents stalking court-goers in Oregon, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, Martha Walters, approved a new court rule in November 2019 that prohibits warrantless, civil arrests in Oregon courts.
In December 2019, State of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit to halt ICE arrests in and around Washington’s state courthouses. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Washington requested a preliminary injunction, asking the court to halt courthouse arrests entirely while the suit is pending. The amicus brief filed by Oregon’s immigrant rights advocacy groups supports Washington’s request for an immediate statewide injunction barring ICE arrests at and around all state courts. The ICE Field Office in Seattle oversees the arrest practices of ICE agents in both Washington and Oregon.
Washington’s lawsuit follows similar suits in New York and Massachusetts, where federal courts have issued statewide injunctions barring ICE from making arrests of individuals when they seek to use courthouse services. The lawsuits have been filed in response to ICE’s increased targeting of state courthouses for immigration enforcement, often by means that are disruptive to pending judicial proceedings.
The Washington Supreme Court has also posted a proposed trial court rule, currently open for public comment, that is similar to the rule issued by Oregon’s Chief Justice. The public comment period on Washington’s proposed rule closes on February 3, 2020.
Read the group’s amici brief online here: http://bit.ly/oregon-ready-amicus
Video of ICE arrests at Oregon courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties is online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MCSWthEFqU&feature=youtu.be