Attorney General Frosh Joins Coalition Fighting to Halt Immigration Arrests at State Courthouses
14 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief Supporting Massachusetts Lawsuit Against DHS and ICE
BALTIMORE, MD (May 26, 2020) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general in continuing efforts to halt federal immigration arrests of noncitizens in and around state courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order. In an amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiffs in Ryan, et al. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al., the coalition urges the court to uphold a Massachusetts district court’s preliminary injunction that effectively halted these arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This amicus brief follows an amicus brief Attorney General Frosh filed in January 2020, as part of a 14-member coalition, opposing the same policy in the State of Washington.
“Targeting noncitizens at state courthouses must stop. Victims and witnesses are afraid to show up,” said Attorney General Frosh. “This policy makes law enforcement more difficult. It disrupts the judicial system. It is illegal and discriminatory.”
In April 2019, both the Middlesex County district attorney and the Suffolk County district attorney in Massachusetts, along with a number of immigrant advocates, sued ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among others, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, arguing that the federal government’s policy and practice of arresting noncitizens — both undocumented and those with legal status— at or around state courthouses violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Tenth Amendment, and the right of access to courts, which is protected by the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the Trump administration’s policies and were successful. The Trump administration appealed the preliminary injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
The coalition of attorneys general is now urging the appellate court to affirm the lower court’s order, arguing that the federal government has been pursuing its expanded arrest policy in all of the states that are filing this brief in violation of its statutory authority and the common law privilege against civil arrests at courthouses. These unlawful arrests have made it increasingly difficult and sometimes impossible for state judiciaries and prosecutors to maintain the open, safe, and fair courts that are necessary for the orderly administration of justice and the preservation of public safety, since many immigrants are now afraid to report crimes, testify in court, or cooperate with law enforcement or prosecutors.
The brief further explains that the federal government’s practice of conducting civil immigration arrests is deeply harmful to the effective functioning of the states’ court systems and has specifically interfered with state judicial proceedings and the ability of states to pursue criminal prosecutions.
Since Donald Trump took office, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed across the nation — leading to a widespread, chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Hundreds of immigrants have been arrested while appearing in and around state courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals. These arrests happen on a near-daily basis.
Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the state.
Attorney General Frosh joins the attorneys general of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in filing this brief.