Keeping ICE out of our public spaces

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Only a couple of  weeks ago, immigrant advocates and nearly 250 New Mexico attorneys, retired justices, and judges gathered outside Albuquerque Metropolitan Courthouse with signed petitions demanding the New Mexico Supreme Court to make it harder for Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to arrest undocumented people outside the courtroom.

The petitions demanded that ICE agents not be allowed to enforce administrative warrants in and around the courts, and would have to obtain a judicial warrant that is signed by a judge.

According to Maria Martinez Sanchez, an ACLU attorney, administrative warrants are written by ICE agents themselves and not a judge, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

It is an issue many sanctuary cities, or in Albuquerque’s case, immigrant-friendly city, face throughout the nation.

According to the online petition form sign-on, since February 2017, lawyers and advocates have documented the ICE detention of at least 25 immigrants at courthouses across New Mexico, with at least five people having been targeted or detained inside the Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque since late July 2018, indicating ICE enforcement is increasing.

According to the online form, this is evident in the increase of bench warrants in 2017 compared to 2016.

“Many of these individuals were charged with traffic violations, DWI or other offenses but were detained by ICE before they could finish their legal proceedings, demonstrating a troubling obstruction of justice by the agency,” the form reads.

The reality is that these arrests are only adding to the fear of deportation undocumented people have to live with in their daily lives. Many are now afraid to show up in court for court dates being held back by the looming fear of deportation.

Even worse, news of arrests like these expand that fear of deportation for undocumented folks to other public places where ICE has been known to carry out similar arrests, like schools and hospitals.

ICE says that arresting undocumented people in the courtrooms is the safest way to make detentions due to the safety procedures implemented by the courtrooms security which ensures people are unarmed.

They even go as far as blaming “sanctuary laws” for having to resort to courtrooms to make arrests, claiming that under sanctuary law it is more difficult to work together with local law enforcement to carry out detentions.

Let’s be real, ICE’s practice of using public places like hospitals, schools, and courtrooms as traps to detain undocumented people is as inhumane as separating families at the U.S. border who attempt to migrate to our country “the right way”.

These arrests are perpetuating a fear in the undocumented community that is having devastating negative effects on undocumented families.

This perpetuated fear is keeping victims of crimes from speaking up, keeping witnesses of crimes from testifying, keeping those in need of help from calling the police.

This perpetuated fear is keeping mothers and fathers from attending school functions, or dropping off their children, or participating in the academic life of their children.

This perpetuated fear is keeping those who are sick from seeking the medical attention they need.

This perpetuated fear needs to end.

We need to keep ICE out of our courtrooms and any public place that our communities need to access in order to carry out their daily lives.