A pair of Massachusetts district attorneys are taking ICE to court to keep them out.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Attorney in Boston announced charges against a judge and a court officer for the pair’s alleged role in helping a man escape an April 2018 attempt by ICE to detain him following his appearance in a Newton, MA, court. State Attorney General Maura Healey immediately denounced the charges, calling them as “a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
On Monday, the district attorneys for Middlesex and Suffolk County said they plan to file a lawsuit against the loosely regulated immigration police force, according to Commonwealth Magazine. In a statement, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan detailed the need to put an end to ICE’s practice of using court appearances as opportunities to make arrests. Ryan also argued their presence ultimately deters people from making court appearances and hampers the justice system.
“Prosecutors, public defenders, and community groups will file a federal lawsuit to address US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) policy and practice of arresting people at courthouses on civil immigration matters,” Ryan wrote in a statement to Commonwealth. “ICE’s policy is undermining the work of the justice system as a whole. Prosecutors are forced to abandon cases because many victims and witnesses are deterred from appearing in court. The policy also makes it more difficult to obtain defendants’ appearance in court. Today, we are filing a lawsuit to stop ICE’s courthouses arrests.”
The Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Chelsea Collaborative will join the two DAs in the lawsuit, per Commonwealth.
While the announcement of the lawsuit was almost assuredly spurred by last week’s charges, the plan to sue ICE is not new—the DAs told reporters at a Monday morning press conference that the lawsuit has been in the work for over a year. The lawsuit isn’t the first time either DA has voiced concerns about ICE agents and their policy.
In April 2018, Ryan filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Judicial Court calling on to reexamine the impact of ICE arrests on courthouse grounds, saying “victims and witnesses will be greatly harmed by the specter of ICE agents arresting individuals who are required to attend court.” Last month, Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins published a 65-page memo instructing all of her employees to report all in-court ICE activity directly to her or her general counsel.
The legal action marks the first time that any district attorneys office in America has taken ICE to court over this particular practice; if successful, it could provide a roadmap for other progressive officials to keep ICE out of their courts. Here’s hoping.