Federal immigration agents arrested at least three people Tuesday at the Sonoma County Superior Court campus, preventing them from appearing before judges for pending criminal matters and prompting unified outcry from criminal justice and court officials who condemned the action as undermining due process and local authority.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests in defiance of a new state law barring civil immigration arrests at California courthouses, a statute that does not strip federal agents of their authority to conduct missions but makes clear the state’s intent. The action also comes four days after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced the agency will participate in ICE’s escalating immigration enforcement across the country in jurisdictions with sanctuary policies, and called out cities including San Francisco.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch and Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi condemned the arrests for undermining public safety and the fragile yet crucial trust between immigrants and local authorities. County counsel Bruce Goldstein called ICE’s actions “lawless” because the agents had no judicial warrants, in violation of state law.
“It’s now going to put total fear in the community,” Pozzi said in an interview. “People aren’t going to come to court. Victims will refuse to show up. Witnesses will refuse to show up … cases will have to get dismissed.”
Pozzi, who worked with staff from U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson’s office to get the names of individuals who were detained, said she wasn’t able to make them public because of attorney-client privilege rules barring release of information without a client’s permission.
Thompson, D-St. Helena, said the courthouse arrests run the risk of eroding trust between public safety officials and immigrants.