Defying N.J.’s top judge, ICE continues courthouse arrests

New Jersey’s top judge asked Trump administration officials last month to stop arresting immigrants inside courthouses.

Now he has their response: No way.

As recently as last week, armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in plainclothes arrested an undocumented immigrant at the Middlesex County courthouse, Sheriff Mildred Scott told WNYC. The man was free to go – except right then, immigration agents stepped in and detained him on an undisclosed charge.

That arrest came a week after Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner pleaded with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to add courthouses to a list of “sensitive locations” that ICE avoids. Rabner wrote that “serious consequences” could result if immigrants fear that coming to court could lead to deportation. Rabner argued that  witnesses, victims, and defendants may not show up to testify – making everyone less safe.

Before Trump gave ICE more discretion to arrest undocumented immigrants, attorneys say, federal agents never slipped into court to make arrests.

Two ICE arrests prompted Rabner’s initial letter. One was a March 31 incident at the Middlesex County courthouse in which an immigrant who was a victim of a crime found himself handcuffed by sheriff’s officers and turned over to ICE.

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