The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency intimidated undocumented witnesses and victims at local Pennsylvania courthouses, according to a 2019 report by the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University.
“The Philadelphia ICE office, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, surpassed all 23 other regional offices in the country in making more ‘at-large’ arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions in 2017,” the report states.
It is disgusting that ICE would use courthouses, where people go to seek justice, as a place to arrest people who have no criminal convictions. We understand that a courthouse is a lawful place, and undocumented people are technically breaking a law. But this report reveals a dangerous practice because it discourages undocumented people from reporting incidents or testifying against people charged with crimes.
This is especially problematic given a recent history of abuses against people who were detained by ICE, like facing inadequate health care or sexual assault in detention centers. Whether a person is undocumented or is not as serious a threat to our society as people in power who feel free to abuse.
Seventy-seven percent of legal service providers said their clients who are immigrants “expressed fear of going to court or chose not to pursue a case because they may be arrested or detained by ICE,” according to the Sheller Center report.
ICE’s actions are disrupting our criminal justice system and limit a person’s ability to report crimes. Courthouses should be considered sensitive locations like schools for this reason. We can’t let the anxieties of getting arrested outweigh someone’s need for justice.