Attorney discusses immigrants’ rights in courthouses following ICE arrest in Hidalgo County
WESLACO – A county courthouse is not off-limits to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Their policy allows them to make arrests there.
Although, they “should generally avoid enforcement actions in courthouses, or areas within courthouses that are dedicated to non-criminal (e.g., family court, small claims court) proceedings,” according to an ICE directive.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney David Donatti advises vigilance in all parts of a courthouse.
“I think that we have seen cases in the country of ICE officers arresting people in civil court proceedings, as well. They may not prioritize it in the same way, but it's important even if you're going to civil court to be vigilant and to know your rights before you go,” said Donatti.
Donatti offers advice for all people who do not have legal status to be in the U.S. but who have to go to court. He says agents can be in uniform or in plain clothes and are usually in the hallways.
Agents could ask about your status, but Donatti says you have the right to remain silent.
“If an officer approaches you and is asking you this information, we always tell people – ask if you're free to leave. Because, if the officer isn't detaining you, you have a right to leave the courthouse,” advised Donatti.
ICE can make an arrest, but it will require a warrant. Donatti advises to always ask who issued it.
“What you really want to see, is this a judicial warrant – one that comes from a court. Or is it an administrative warrant – one that comes from ICE itself or an immigration officer. So, what you're really looking for, the key here, is if this warrant is signed by a judge,” Donatti says.
Donatti added officials have to present the warrant before an arrest.
If they do arrest you, Donatti says you should not sign any paper and should assert your right to an attorney before talking with agents.