Hancock, city officials to ICE: Stay out of courthouses unless you have a warrant

Mayor Michael Hancock, District Attorney Beth McCann and other city officials Thursday asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stay out of Denver courthouses unless in possession of a warrant.

In a letter to ICE Acting Field Office Director Jeffrey Lynch, Hancock and the seventeen other signatories, which included all of Denver City Council, requested that ICE officers “respect ‘sensitive locations’ when carrying out their duties.”

Notably, Lynch is the same ICE officer whom U.S. Rep. Jared Polis recently accused of “going rogue” for denying longtime Denver resident and undocumented immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra’s stay of deportation in February.

The move was prompted by recent media accounts of ICE agents walking the halls of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in order to arrest undocumented immigrants in court for state or local matters.

The Meyer Law Office, an immigration firm in Denver, released a video of three officers in the courthouse in late February after City Attorney Kristin Bronson said that she was unaware of ICE activity in Denver’s courts. The video has been shared almost 15,000 times.

Video by the Meyer Law Office, PC

Denver sheriffs from all 64 counties do not comply with federal “detainer requests” to hold suspected arrestees beyond their release dates so that ICE officers can pick them up. But as the above video shows, ICE officers occasionally use courthouses as “staging areas” for enforcement activities.

The letter’s authors acknowledge that the practice was in effect even before the media accounts. “However, we believe this practice has and will increasingly lead to an environment of fear for victims and witnesses,” they write. “Already, we have victims of domestic violence refusing to come to court for fear of immigration consequences which results in violent criminals being released into the community.”

Hancock and the other signatories request that ICE stay out of courtrooms unless in the possession of a criminal warrant. They also ask that officers not conduct enforcement actions near Denver schools.

In both requests, authors refer to ICE’s own “sensitive locations” policy, which asks officials to take special care when enforcement activities could potentially alarm communities, disrupt sensitive areas or involve organizations that assist victims of crime or abuse.

Attorney Hans Meyer, whose firm released the video, called the letter an important first step, but says that more should still be done. It is imperative to enact policy to extract ICE from Denver courtrooms, jails, probation offices, and schools.”

You can read the full letter here.

Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Wikimedia Commons