ALBUQUERQUE, NM--Today, 61 legal associations and community advocacy organizations, over 240 members of the New Mexico state bar, 41 law firms and five retired members of the judiciary sent a petition to the New Mexico Supreme Court, requesting the adoption of a rule that would require federal immigration agents to possess a judicial warrant based on probable cause in order to arrest individuals in and around New Mexican courthouses. The petition is in response to a significant increase in the use of courthouses and courthouse grounds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target people for immigration arrests, a practice that reduces access to justice for all New Mexicans by rendering the courts inaccessible to the immigrant community for matters large and small.
“We cannot allow the halls of justice to become places to be feared by immigrants,” said ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Maria Martinez Sanchez, “It is vital that any person can go to court to pay a ticket, testify as a witness, seek justice when they are a victim of a crime or attend a hearing as a defendant without fearing that they will risk immigration arrest by doing so. Today, as legal professionals and concerned members of the community we are calling on our Supreme Court to protect the sanctity of the courts and the principle of equal access to justice by placing reasonable restrictions on ICE’s activities therein.”
Starting after the inauguration of President Trump and emboldened by the administration’s ardent anti-immigrant agenda, ICE increased its civil arrests of immigrants inside courthouses throughout the nation as those individuals made appearances for matters unrelated to their immigration status. ICE agents have used this tactic in New Mexico, stalking the grounds of courthouses throughout the state and arresting multiple individuals based on violations of civil immigration law as they tried to access the courts.
Reports from other states have found that ICE agents have even targeted proceedings designed for victims of human trafficking in New York City, and arrested a mother and son in Charlotte who turned up in court for a domestic violence case.
“Survivors of domestic violence should never be afraid that pressing charges against their abuser could lead to their own arrest, “ said Justin Remer-Thamert, New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice. “The predatory and cruel tactics employed by this administration at courthouses have no place in New Mexico. In order for the courts to continue to protect our families and communities, every person must have unfettered access to the courts and justice system.”