The Oregon branch of the ACLU filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding federal agents’ alleged practice of arresting undocumented immigrants at local courthouses.
The lawsuit comes after the government agencies failed to respond to a 2017 Freedom of Information Act request.
The request, sent in October, was filed to access records about ICE arrests and enforcement in and around various Oregon courthouses, specifically citing Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro.
The ACLU claims that soon after President Donald Trump‘s inauguration, attorneys began reporting to the ACLU that plainclothes ICE agents were “stopping their Latino clients both in and around Oregon courthouses with many reports coming from Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington county.”
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in a Jan. 2017 article that out of 64 ICE arrests within the state that month, 5 were made at or near courthouses. A figure that was cited by the ACLU in the FOIA request.
The ACLU of Oregon has posted a number of short videos to their YouTube channel that show various ICE arrests in or in the vicinity of courthouses. In one, the person filming can be heard asking ICE agents if they have a warrant to arrest the man in custody, whose face is blurred. They decline to present one, claiming that they are “in traffic.”
Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Thomas Balmer wrote a letter in Apr. 2017 to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly requesting that they “direct federal law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), not to arrest individuals inside or in the immediate vicinity of Oregon’s county courthouses.” The judge said that these areas are open to the public, and that it’s important to encourage court appearances by any party or witness regardless of immigration status. Nevertheless, it doesn’t appear that the letter has slowed down the amount of ICE activity around Oregon courthouses
As part of their FOIA request, the ACLU asked for information including records of ICE surveillance of citizens legally observing and filming federal agents, participating in rallies, protests, and vigils.
More specifically, the request and the following lawsuit asked for records made or received by ICE in their Seattle field office, as well as any Oregon sub offices, after Jan. 20th 2017, as well as records of the number of individuals who have been detained, arrested, or questioned by ICE since Jan. 1st 2017. It also requests any records of ICE policies, guidelines, and standards of conduct, as well as various communications between ICE employees after Jan. 1st 2017.
[Image via screengrab]