SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — At least three people were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents outside of the Sonoma County Superior Court on Tuesday, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office said.
Sonoma County sheriff Mark Essick confirmed that the sheriff’s office received a call at around 7:45 a.m about a visit by ICE agents to the courthouse.
“The Sheriff’s Office did not collaborate with Homeland Security agents in these courthouse arrests and has strict policies regarding any coordination with ICE,” Essick said.
District attorney Jill Ravitch, public defender Kathleen Pozzi and county counsel Bruce Goldstein condemned the actions of the ICE agents in a statement. Ravitch objected to ICE making arrests in and around courthouses, who “were accessing the court system to seek justice.”
“ICE detention actions have no place in the court building, where they have the effect of scaring away witnesses and victims, and undermines the District Attorney’s Office’s ability to hold the guilty accountable and protect crime victims,” Ravitch previously stated in a letter to former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
After that letter, the former acting director of ICE, Thomas D. Homan, responded to Ravitch and said ICE would continue targeted enforcement actions around courthouses. Homan said “courthouses are not sensitive locations under ICE policy.”
Pozzi said such operations by ICE have “no place” in the court building. “The public should know that ICE enforcement affects everyone, including witnesses, victims and those coming to the courthouse on non-serious offenses,” Pozzi said.
Pozzi noted that both sides are disadvantaged when an accused can not appear to answer charges, and indicated that she may demand speedy trials for those detained, which may result in the dismissal of pending criminal cases.
“ICE’s actions are lawless in that their actions are carried out without judicial warrants and violate recently passed state law prohibiting civil arrests at a courthouse. Rather than protect our community, these immigration arrests undermine our system of justice,” said county counsel Goldstein.
UPDATE 2/19: In a statement issued on Wednesday, ICE said two people arrested were undocumented Mexican nationals. One, Pedro Romero Aguirre has five criminal convictions for misdemeanor convictions including DUI, battery, and trespassing, according to ICE. He had also been apprehended six times in 2010 by immigration officers, resulting in three deportations and three voluntary returns to Mexico. The second, Antonio Hernandez Lopez, has been apprehended four time by immigration officers between 2004 and 2007 and currently has pending charges of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse and DUI.
An ICE spokesman also defended the arrests and operations at the courthouse. “Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, California Assembly Bill 668 cannot and will not govern the conduct of federal officers acting pursuant to duly-enacted laws passed by Congress that provide the authority to make administrative arrests of removable aliens inside the United States,” said David Jennings, field office director, San Francisco, U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Our officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws to remove criminal aliens from our communities.”