US to limit immigration arrests at courthouses under Biden

Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attends a Cabinet meeting with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attends a Cabinet meeting with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Immigration arrests at courthouses will be more limited than they were under President Donald Trump in a change of policy announced Tuesday by the Biden administration.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would no longer be authorized to carry out routine arrests at courthouses, a practice that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said discouraged people from attending court hearings and cooperating with law enforcement.

ICE can make arrests at courthouses in cases involving matters of national security or if the person poses a threat to public safety. Agents can also apprehend someone who is the subject of an active pursuit or who authorities suspect may destroy evidence in a criminal case, Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the new policy.

The goal, Mayorkas said, is to balance the “fair administration of justice” with immigration enforcement.

“The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement," he said.

Some advocates believe the new policy doesn't go far enough. Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the exceptions for national security and public safety are too broad and the mere presence of immigration authorities near courthouses can make people afraid to seek legal protection, whether arrests are made or not.

Shah urged the Biden administration to also limit the presence of ICE or Customs and Border Protection at schools and hospitals, constrain the use of force and end the practice of working with local law enforcement to assist with deportations.

"The Biden administration clearly recognizes the damage done to immigrant communities," she said. "Now it must follow through on its commitment and end these harmful practices once and for all.”