On Thursday, a federal judge blocked ICE agents from arresting illegal immigrants in Massachusetts if the immigrants are inside the courthouse, entering it or exiting it. U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, stated in her preliminary injunction that the court “ORDERS that Defendants” ICE and the acting Director Matthew T. Albence and ICE’s Todd M. Lyons in Boston along with the federal Department of Homeland Security stop any ‘civil immigration actions inside courthouses,’” according to the Boston Herald.
Near the end of April, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced they were filing a lawsuit targeting ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, Homeland Security’s Acting Secretary, Albence, and Todd M. Lyons, the Acting Field Office Director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.
Rollins boasted “it would be my honor” to face arrest from federal agents for her opposition to ICE. She attacked ICE for arresting illegal immigrants near or in courthouses, saying, “That is an assault on our justice system. Not one person in our Commonwealth is safer because of that practice. 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.”
As The Boston Herald reported, on the same day Rollins and Ryan announced their lawsuit, ICE arrested two illegal immigrants in two Suffolk, Massachusetts, courthouses, one linked to MS-13 and other to the 18th Street gang.
Shortly after that, in May, President Trump spoke of Rollins and Ryan, saying, “These are people that probably don’t mind crime; they don’t mind what’s going on. You look at MS-13, they say in the world there’s nothing more evil. These are some very, very bad people. To try and protect them, I don’t think so … They are protecting people that in many cases, and certainly not in all cases, but in many cases are very dangerous people and you say why? What are they doing this for? What’s the game?”
The lawsuit from Rollins and Ryan stated:
For the last two years, officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) have patrolled Massachusetts state courthouses—including courtrooms, hallways, clerk’s offices, parking lots and front steps— following, arresting, and detaining those they believe violated federal civil, not criminal, law. In the face of widespread opposition to this practice, ICE has not only refused to stop it, but has issued a formal Directive authorizing such civil courthouse arrests.
ICE’s Directive, and its widespread practice of conducting civil arrests in state courthouses, are unprecedented in American history. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court have long recognized a privilege against civil arrests for those attending court on official business—a privilege that traces its roots back to English common law, and rests on the common-sense principle that the judicial system cannot function if parties and witnesses fear that their appearance in court will be used as a trap.
The Daily Mail noted, “Under Talwani’s ruling, immigration authorities can still arrest people on civil immigration violations if the person is already in state or federal custody, like when a defendant is brought from a jail to a court hearing. It also doesn’t prevent ICE from making criminal arrests.”