WAISN #CourtWatch: Protecting the Halls of Justice — Happening Right Now
Faith partners, immigrant rights advocates, community organizations & neighborhood members are at the courthouses right now and throughout the entire week in central & eastern Washington ensuring our immigrant & refugee communities can access the halls of justice.
The courthouse is a core state civic institution that can be vital to public safety and the provision of due process. ICE has exhibited extreme disregard for the integrity of the court system and the safety of our broader communities. Since January of 2018, WAISN’s hotline has received hundreds of calls reporting sightings, immigration activity and detentions inside, outside, or near the courthouse in Adams, Grant, Franklin, Okanogan, Yakima, Skagit and Thurston counties. The highest volume of calls and reports are from Grant and Adams counties with more than one report a week.
As we became aware of the reprehensible practices of ICE and CBP in courthouses, and the collusion of courthouse personnel, we notified community members through social media and as of this week; now in person standing outside the courthouse through #CourtWatch… that ICE and CBP is conducting arrests at the courthouses particularly in Ephrata, Grant County and Othello, Adams County.
As an attempt to encourage the County Commissioners to take action we have launched ongoing phone bank campaigns and met with Grant County Commissioners to urge them to release guidance directing court personnel not to facilitate federal immigration enforcement activities in the course of their employment, unless required by a judicial order.
Due to the increase of arrests at courthouses and due to the community’s fear of being apprehended, WAISN is now offering accompaniment requested through the Hotline. This is a community attempt to make courthouses accessible to people so they continue with their civil court matters, access services, appear as witnesses, and file protection orders.
WAISN began to do accompaniment in the fall of 2018 in collaboration with member organizations including:
- Church Council of Greater Seattle
- Central Washington Justice for Our Neighbors
- Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition
- Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition
- Seattle Democratic Socialist of America
- Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center
- Washington Defenders Association
- Jewish Coalition for Immigrant Justice NW
WAISN’s Accompaniment efforts trains volunteers to walk side-by-side with immigrants during this intimidating process. If an arrest by immigration officials happens during an accompaniment, we notified the person’s family members. Volunteers are there to remind community members of:
- their constitutional rights,
- to document the arrest with their cell phone camera, and
- to ask to see a judicial warrant.
While we cannot guarantee that the community members will not be apprehended by immigration officers, it can relieve some of the community’s fears and anxiety. In our experience, people want to resolve their civil court matters, it is also their right to due process under the U.S Constitution regardless of nationality or citizenship status. They are requesting accompaniment because the obstacle preventing them from doing that is ICE and CBP officers at the courthouse.
The apprehensions conducted by ICE and CBP officers and their presence at courthouses in the state of Washington continues to have a chilling effect on immigrants and their families, and undermines public confidence in the courts. WAISN has been investing its limited resources and staff time for the past two years to make courthouses accessible to immigrant communities. Despite our efforts, community members continue to miss their court hearings due to the rise in fear of family separation and deportation; and they are losing trust in the judicial system.
Courthouse personnel continues to collude with ICE and CBP agents while arrests continue to increase every day. Chilling effect on access to the courts is profound. Immigrants and their families are increasingly afraid of appearing in State courts due to fear of ICE. Also, fear of the courts can prevent people from going to court to obtain protective orders, defend against criminal charges, or seek protection against abusive employers and landlords.
We need to mobilize and ensure our courts are protected! #CourtWatch Week of Action
WAISN member organizations, partners and leaders will be leading #CourtWatch efforts in Grant & Adams County the entire week, but we need your help!
- Bring Accompaniment To Your County By Training Your Team!
- Sign up to be an Accompaniment Volunteer!
- Your Organization can Co-Pilot a #CourtWatch Day in front of Grant or Adams County!
WAISN Hotline Stories of Courthouse Arrest:
- In August 2018, a family member called about a young man who went to court on a Monday in Moses Lake, Grant County for a hearing and he had not been heard from since.
- In October 2018, a single mother went to the courthouse in Othello, Adams County regarding a car accident she had been involved in. She never came home to her children ranging in ages from 10 months to 10 years old. Her oldest child received a call from her 14 days later reporting she was in Tacoma and had been detained by ICE as she was leaving the courthouse.
- In April 2019, a caller reported possible apprehension of family member. His brother in law went to the Ephrata courthouse in Grant County on March 25 to pay a traffic ticket and was not heard from again. His family had been trying to locate him. The hotline volunteer looked on ICE locator and found that he is detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA.
- In August 2019, a man called to report his wife missing in Grant County. He suspects immigration arrested her at the courthouse.
Practices and Tactics of Arrests
- In July 2018, an Othello Community Clinic Case Manager reported their client’s husband had been detained by ICE when he was at the Othello courthouse in Adams County after attempting to address court matters. ICE was at the court and waited for him to leave the courthouse to then detain him.
- In August 2018, a woman called to report her husband being picked up by ICE 10 minutes before his court hearing at the Yakima courthouse in Yakima County.
- In August 2019, a criminal defense attorney called to report ICE in civilian clothing in a tan Suburban/Yukon at the Ephrata, Grant County courthouse. She recognized the ICE officers from a few weeks prior when they detained her client outside of the court. She believes they are targeting the 10:30am district docket with predominantly Latino names.
- In February 2019, a community member was given a ticket by the WA State Patrol because he was speeding. He went to Franklin County Court and was assigned a lawyer. He called to request accompaniment at his next court date at the same court because he is worried that ICE might arrest him after his case is settled.
- In April 2019, a mother requested accompaniment to the Ephrata Grant, County courthouse to obtain her US citizen children’s passport.
- In April 2019, a community member from Everett, Snohomish County requested accompaniment to court because his ex-girlfriend was seeking a restraining order against him and he had to be present.
- In October 2019, community member being charged with domestic violence requested accompaniment to Ephrata, Grant County.
- UW Center for Human Rights: Justice Compromised: Immigration Arrest at Washington State Courthouse
- Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network: Immigration Enforcement at Washington State Courthouses • Summary of Preliminary Data
News To Read:
- Oregon Public Broadcasting: Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bars Warrantless ICE Courthouse Arrests by Conrad Wilson
- Crosscut: County prosecutors are sharing information with ICE & Border Patrol to facilitate courthouse arrest by Lilly Fowler
- Columbia Basin Herald: County Prosecutor Responds to Report He Facilitated Border Patrol Courthouse Arrests by Emry Dinman
- Crosscut: More immigrants report arrests at WA courthouse, despite outcry by Lilly Fowler
- The Olympian: ICE arrest at Thurston County courthouse begs the question: What does sanctuary mean? by Sara Gentzler
The WAISN Team