By Phil Matier

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – ICE is targeting undocumented immigrants at local courthouses in the Bay Area and across the country.

The feds laid out new guidelines for arresting undocumented immigrants and KPIX 5’s Phil Matier got his hands on the new directive from ICE.

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The feds say they are going after undocumented immigrants and that includes reaching into the local courthouses and taking them by force, if necessary.

And the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office didn’t know about it until we told them.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said, “I will tell you right now unequivocally, I will not cooperate. I will not sign any agreement and I want to make it very clear to our community that they will be safe when they come to us.”

California has previously warned the feds about the dangers of sweeps in local courts.

But federal immigration officials are upping the sanctuary ante, reiterating that they can, and will, go into local courthouses to arrest people in the United States illegally and who are in court on other charges.

As former FBI Special Agent and KPIX-5 security analyst Jeff Harp explains, “What they are attempting to do is assert some authority with warrants.”

University of California Hastings College of the Law Professor David Levine says ICE is delivering a message as well.

“What they are trying to do is scare a lot of people,” Levine said.

In 2017, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court said while pulling people out of courthouses is legal, there will be consequences to public safety.

In March 2017, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauyey said, “Victims are not going to come to court. Witnesses are not going to come to testify against bad guys.”

The new guidelines spell it out.

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KPIX 5 has learned that ICE agents will continue to target illegal immigrants inside or near courthouses, people ICE calls “fugitives” with deportation orders.

Agents will avoid arresting anyone in areas like family court or small claims. Basically they’ll target criminal proceedings.

Agents won’t arrest witnesses or victims, even if they are in the country illegally. And they will “avoid” arresting any friends and family members.

Agents will also “try” to make the arrests away from public view and do so in coordination with local courthouse security.

But San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon isn’t buying the new safeguards.

“The evidence points in a different direction,” Gascon said. “We have seen them actually ICE picking up people that were witnesses. We have seen them go after victims.”

In March 2017, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauyey said, “I’m not saying that you shouldn’t in fact make the arrest, I’m just saying it interferes with the courthouse as an access to justice and due process.”

KPIX 5 security analyst Jeff Harp said, “If they’ve got a warrant, they can issue and they can do what they need to.”

After reviewing the new federal guidelines, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye released a statement, toning down her initial comments.

Cantil-Sakauye said, “If followed correctly, this written directive is a good start. It’s essential that we protect the integrity of our state court justice system and protect the people who use it.”

The question is going to be: what kind of cooperation are the locals going to afford the feds if they go into the courts. Are they going to cooperate with arresting people?

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There is pending legislation in California to declare areas such as schools, health facilities and courts as off limits to immigration enforcement.