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Posted on: Mar 16, 2020

In the wake of recent courthouse arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) agents at the Sonoma County Superior Courthouse, the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) sent a letter to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on March 6 asking him to defend the recently-enacted Assembly Bill 668 (Gonzalez, D-San Diego). 

The legislation, co-sponsored by CAAA and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, went into effect January 1 and bars civil arrests in California courthouses without a valid warrant. 

“When people don’t feel safe showing up to court to act as a witness, pay a fine, or file papers because they may be subjected to civil arrest due to their immigration status, the system is broken,” Joe Capurro, president of CAAA, states in the letter. “We are writing to urgently seek your help to protect immigrants’ rights and access to the courts without fear of arrest, and to permit the courts to fulfill their responsibility to ensure safe and orderly administration of justice.”

In February, ICE agents deliberately undermined California’s new law and arrested two people at the Sonoma County Superior Courthouse, with one taking place in a hallway as the man in question was on the way to a hearing, the Associated Press reported.

In a subsequent statement, ICE’s field office director in San Francisco said that their “officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws…”

“CAAA respectfully asks for the assistance and resources of the Office of the Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop these illegal actions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, enforce state law as set forth in Assembly Bill 668, and to work with all state agencies to safeguard our courthouses,” Capurro said in the letter to Becerra. “Access to courts is part of the right to free speech enshrined in the California and United States constitutions. Our state is harmed when our judicial system is interfered with in any way.”

CAAA also sent copies of the letter to AB 668 author Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, coauthors Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, as well as Governor Gavin Newsom, among others. 

The Attorney General’s office has yet to respond.

To view the letter in full, click here.