Prosecutors and other attorneys are outraged over a new tactic U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been using to catch and arrest undocumented immigrants: showing up at courthouses where the immigrants are scheduled to appear as witnesses.
Attorneys are worried that the practice will discourage undocumented immigrants from appearing in court to testify as witnesses for prosecutors, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Octavio Chaidez is a criminal-defense attorney who told CBS that his client is among those who were taken into custody by ICE agents after they arrested him at the Los Angeles Superior Court in Pasadena.
Chaidez said that he had just finished a criminal court appearance with his client when four agents swooped in, confirmed the man’s identity and took him away.
Chaidez, who would not say whether or not his client has a criminal history, told CBS, “It was very shocking because it occurred inside of a courthouse, and the reason for the detention had nothing to do with that proceeding.”
Chaidez said he is one of many attorneys and prosecutors who worry that ICE arrests at courthouses will have a negative impact on the outcome of cases because of fear of deportation among witnesses and victims.
Chaidez told CBS that the threat of deportation erodes the trust built in non-English-speaking communities to persuade them to come forward and help solve crimes.
“They may refuse to contact the police. They may refuse to give testimony as a witness. They may refuse to show up in court, and that affects the entire system,” Chaidez said.
Chaidez told CBS that he has not seen or heard from his client since his arrest.
CBS reports that ICE said it only shows up to courthouses to arrest undocumented immigrants when all other options have been exhausted.
Read more at CBS Los Angeles.