DHS Is Authorized to Arrest Illegal Criminal Immigrants Who May Also Be Victims and Witnesses of Crime

Much to the chagrin of those in favor of allowing those here illegally to remain in this country, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it has the authority to arrest crime victims and witnesses at courthouses.

Some state court officials are opposed to the DHS rule because they fear that arresting victims and witnesses will thwart the efforts of bringing criminals to justice in their jurisdictions. They are concerned that the DHS practice could scare victims and witnesses away from reporting or offering evidence of crimes.

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye wrote a leter in March to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.

In her letter, she says:

“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. “… Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.”

Kelly and Sessions responded to Cantil-Sakauye’s letter by indicating:

That the characterization of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers “stalking” undocumented immigrants at courthouses was “particularly troubling,” and that officers were within their rights to arrest undocumented immigrants in public places.
They blamed state and local officials for enacting “statutes and ordinances designed to specifically prohibit or hinder ICE from enforcing immigration law” and “denying requests by ICE officers and agents to enter prisons and jails to make arrests.” Such policies, they wrote, made it necessary for officers to arrest undocumented immigrants at courthouses.
“We would encourage you to express your concerns to the Governor of California and local officials who have enacted policies that occasionally necessitate ICE officers and agents to make arrests at courthouses and other public places.”

What many have failed to mention in the the argument against arresting crime victims and witnesses is that “Immigration officials offer a special visa program to allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking to stay in the country. If someone is the immediate victim or witness to a major crime, ICE agents consider that fact when making individual determinations.”

David Lapan, a spokesman for DHS also added reason to the complaints of state court officials like Cantil-Sakauye and reminded them that:

“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 Just because they’re a witness doesn’t mean they might not pose a security threat for other reasons.
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, adding that the factors that could lead ICE agents to arrest a victim or a witness “could be any number of things — 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.’’

Once again the Trump administration brings the rule of law back into focus. A “novel idea” that alluded some in the Obama administration when it came to enforcing Immigration laws.