A Los Angeles lawmaker says he’ll pursue a bill in January that would bar federal immigration agents from arresting or questioning undocumented immigrants in state courthouses unless they first obtain a warrant.
Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, Bell Gardens, introduced the new provisions in SB 183 late Friday, citing concerns raised by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye earlier this year that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were using the secure buildings of California’s trial courts to “stalk” and detain undocumented immigrants.
“As the California chief justice has said, ‘Courthouses should not be used as bait’ for immigrant enforcement, and the same is true for schools,” Lara said in a prepared statement.
The ICE ban would apply to any state-owned or state-leased building, including K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.
“Courthouses, schools and other state offices are a refuge for millions of the most vulnerable Californians, and immigrants should not be afraid to come to court or take their children to school,” Lara said.
Lara’s late amendments to the bill, SB 183, suggested he was preparing to push through the legislation in the final hours of the legislative session, which ends at midnight Friday. On Monday he announced he will hold the bill until the Legislature reconvenes in 2018 “to work with stakeholders in the fall to move the bill forward in January.”
Cantil-Sakauye in March asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to stop arresting undocumented immigrants in state courthouses, arguing that the activity was scaring away witnesses and litigants, including women seeking restraining orders.
Sessions and Kelly responded two weeks later, sharply rebuking the chief justice for accusing ICE agents of “stalking” immigrants. The U.S. officials blamed California and large counties from blocking access to suspects in prisons and jails.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency could not comment on the pending legislation because it could be construed as improper lobbying. She reiterated previous comments that ICE agents make arrests in courthouses because their security screenings provide a safer environment for the public and officers.
A spokesman for judicial branch leaders said they had no position or comment on the bill.
California’s Legislature and attorney general have regularly challenged Trump administration actions to crack down on immigration during his first eight months in office.
On Monday, Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the president’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Also on Monday, Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, announced that he and Gov. Jerry Brown reached agreement on so-called sanctuary state legislation that will limit local law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with federal officials on immigration actions.