SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — ICE agents on Tuesday arrested three people at the Sonoma County Superior Courthouse in a violation of state law, sending the legal community in an uproar.
The arrests also raised questions about the manner in which immigration officials are operating and have sent a shock wave through the immigrant community.
The three people who were detained came to the court as requested to clear up misdemeanor violations.
“When we have ICE running around arresting people, it makes it a little bit difficult. We had a lot of ‘failures to appear’ today because of that,” said Kathleen Pozzi, the Sonoma County Public Defender.
Usually, the county’s District Attorney and Public Defender are adversaries in the legal system, but what happened Tuesday has joined them in a common cause.
They released a rare joint statement Wednesday condemning the arrests. State law is supposed to forbid immigration detentions anywhere near a courthouse.
Pozzi says law enforcement needs people to be willing to cooperate with the legal system as witnesses or victims, but the ICE arrests make their job harder.
“We’re out in the community speaking to this population. ‘Know your rights, come to court, don’t be fearful, ICE is not going to arrest you…’ and then this happens, and it puts our credibility at issue,” Pozzi said.
The Rapid Response Network sends trained observers to the scene of any ICE Operations. As armed agents tried to arrest a man in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning, they left after observers showed up and officers couldn’t produce a legal warrant.
“ICE is basically a clandestine military force that operates outside the law,” said Susan Shaw with RRN.
“We didn’t see any warrants in anybody’s hands as they were taking someone right outside my office here and one out in the front. They just said, ‘you’re coming with me and off they went,” Pozzi said.
In a statement, ICE said, “Despite attempts to prevent ICE officers from doing their jobs, ICE will continue to carry out its mission to uphold public safety and enforce immigration law.”
Pozzi says it was the first time anyone has seen ICE arrests at the courthouse and the incident came shortly after President Trump announced stepped up immigration detentions in states with sanctuary policies.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department confirms that it did receive warnings that ICE was going to conduct arrests here at the courthouse. But per their policy, they refused to collaborate in the operation.