Trump officials defend immigration
arrests at California courthouses
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[April 01, 2017]
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Federal agents have
arrested illegal immigrants at California courthouses because local
authorities have made such apprehensions at jails difficult, the Trump
administration's top two law enforcement officials told the state's
chief justice, who had requested a halt to the practice.
In a letter to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye made public on Friday,
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security
Secretary John Kelly gave no indication that agents would stop the
Sessions and Kelly criticized California officials for limiting the
cooperation of state and local law enforcement officers with U.S.
agents, preventing them from going to jails to pick up illegal
immigrants arrested for other crimes.
"As a result, ICE officers and agents are required to locate and arrest
these aliens in public places, rather than in secure jail facilities,"
Sessions and Kelly wrote in the letter dated on Wednesday, using the
acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Kelly, whose Department of Homeland Security includes ICE, and Sessions,
who as attorney general heads the Justice Department, are members of
Republican President Donald Trump's Cabinet.
Since taking office in January, Trump has widened the net for illegal
immigrants to be detained and removed from the country, in keeping with
his White House campaign promise.
Immigrant rights groups say federal agents have entered courthouses with
increased frequency this year, including in California, Massachusetts,
Maryland and Texas.
California law enforcement officers, including in Los Angeles and San
Francisco, decline requests from ICE agents to hold illegal immigrants
past their release dates in local jails so they can be transferred to
federal custody. The stance of these law enforcement officials conforms
with advice from the state's two most recent attorneys general.
These and other "sanctuary" jurisdictions that opt not to cooperate with
federal immigration agents have drawn fire from conservative
Republicans. On Monday, Sessions threatened to withhold millions of
dollars in U.S. funding for cities that fail to assist immigration
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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to law enforcement
officers at the Thomas Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis
Missouri, U.S. March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
In their letter, Kelly and Sessions said agents make arrests at
courthouses rather than other public places in part because visitors
are screened for weapons before entering, as they are at jails.
They were responding to a letter sent two weeks ago by
Cantil-Sakauye, who asked the two Cabinet officials to stop
immigration agents from arresting undocumented immigrants inside
"Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement
of our country's immigration law," she wrote.
The presence of immigration agents in courthouses in the nation's
most populous state could undermine public trust in its judicial
system, she said.
Her letter went on to say that immigration agents were "stalking
undocumented immigrants" at courthouses, language that drew a sharp
rebuke from Sessions and Kelly.
They said the use of the word "stalking" suggested criminal conduct.
They said that was unwarranted because agents have full authority to
arrest illegal immigrants.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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