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County officials say ‘lawless’ courthouse ICE arrests ‘undermine’ justice system

Sonoma County’s district attorney, public defender and county counsel criticized U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents for arresting at least three immigrants in and near the county courthouse in Santa Rosa on Tuesday.

ICE agents informed the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday they would be at the courthouse complex at 600 Administration Drive.

Sheriff Mark Essick confirmed his office received the phone call, but Essick said:

“The Sheriff’s Office did not collaborate with Homeland Security agents in these courthouse arrests and has strict policies regarding any coordination with ICE.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Juan Valencia said:

“The Sheriff’s Office does not and cannot enforce immigration law. We still want people to call us and not be afraid to do so.”

District Attorney Jill Ravitch said:

“ICE detention actions have no place in the court building where they have the effect of scaring away witnesses and victims, and undermining the District Attorney’s Office’s ability to hold the guilty accountable and protect crime victims.”

Ravitch previously signed a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly objecting to immigration enforcement arrests in and around the state’s courthouses.

Ravitch previously received a response from then-ICE acting director Thomas Homan, indicating that notwithstanding objections made, ICE would continue to conduct targeted enforcement actions around courthouses, stating that courthouses are not sensitive locations under ICE policy, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Homan has since retired.

Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi and County Counsel Bruce Goldstein joined Ravitch’s criticism over ICE’s actions.

Pozzi said:

“ICE operations have no place in the County building. The public should know that ICE enforcement affects everyone, including witnesses, victims and those coming to the courthouse on non-serious offenses.”

Pozzi said she may demand speedy trials for the detained immigrants, which could result in the dismissal of pending criminal cases.

Goldstein said ICE’s actions were “lawless,” carried out without judicial warrants and a violation of recently passed state law that prohibit civil arrests at a courthouse.

Goldstein said:

“Rather than protect the community, these immigration arrests undermine our system of justice.”

One of the three men who were arrested by the ICE agents was scheduled for a court hearing Tuesday on felony domestic violence and misdemeanor DUI charges, his attorney Martin Woods said.

Woods said his client was walking in a parking lot in the back of the courthouse around 8:30 a.m. when an ICE agent arrested him. A representative from the Public Defender’s Office saw the arrest and contacted him and the court, Woods said.

Woods said:

“He never got inside the courthouse.”

He said he believes his client is now in federal custody in Yuba City.

Woods said his client’s case was scheduled to be resolved with a plea agreement by which he would be convicted of a misdemeanor charge and receive probation. The hearing was postponed to March 3, Woods said.

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