Gwen Moore Speaks Out Against Profiling at Courthouses, Sends Letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Staci Cox
(202) 225- 4572
Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-4) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging him to address the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) practice of targeting immigrants at courthouses. The letter was signed by 59 Members of Congress, including Congresswoman Moore. 
“Today my colleagues and I sent a strong message that people accessing our courthouses should be safe from profiling, fear, and intimidation,” said Rep. Moore. “By targeting courthouses, ICE is exacerbating the culture of fear in our immigrant communities and undermining public safety. Like schools, hospitals, and places of worship, courthouses should be protected from immigration profiling tactics. I am proud that my colleagues stood with me to promote open access to our court system.”
Congresswoman Moore worked closely with Milwaukee’s Voces De La Frontera and the American Civil Liberties Union to gain a full understanding of the immigration enforcement activities occurring at courthouses and the seriousness of the situation. 
"This practice is a national disgrace,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “ICE’s outrageous recent decision to not just continue but actually institutionalize raids in courthouses, should be condemned far and wide. We commend Congresswoman Moore for leading on this, and thank all of the House members who signed the letter."
"America’s courthouses must be open, accessible, and safe for all people, regardless of their immigration status,” said Joanne Lin, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The constitutional promise of equal justice under the law cannot be fulfilled if a segment of our populace fears that accessing court services and seeking legal redress will result in their detention and deportation."
To read the full letter sent to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, please click here. To read selected excerpts from the letter text, please see below. 
May 28, 2014 
Dear Secretary Johnson:
We write to express our serious concerns regarding certain immigration enforcement activities that have taken place at or near courthouses nationwide.  It has recently come to our attention that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel have interrogated, detained, and even processed for removal persons who have appeared in court to access court services.  Examples include persons seeking to pay traffic citations, appear for a hearing, meet with an interpreter, get married, or obtain a domestic violence restraining order.  Some cases involve pastors and family members accompanying people to court to help translate or provide emotional support; many of the people apprehended are the parents of U.S. citizen children.  Although the agency reportedly issued operational guidance to the field in recent months it is apparent that these practices were not addressed and we believe this matter warrants your immediate attention.
As you are aware, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has historically respected and refrained from enforcement activities at or near “sensitive locations,” except in limited exigent circumstances.  Former ICE Director John Morton reaffirmed these principles in an October 24, 2011, memorandum entitled “Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations.”  The memorandum contains a list of sensitive locations covered by the guidance, including schools, hospitals, institutions of worship, sites of religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations.  Although the list is intended to be non-exhaustive, ICE has reportedly decided not to extend to courthouses the same protections provided to those locations explicitly identified in the memo.  We believe this is a critical error that must be remedied.
There is no question that courthouses play a special role in our society.  The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the rights of all people—citizen and non-citizen alike—to petition the government for redress of grievances and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution similarly protects the rights of all persons to due process of law.  Engraved above the Supreme Court of the United States is the inscription “Equal Justice Under Law” and directly above one entrance to the United States Department of Justice building it reads: “The place of justice is a hallowed place.”  Using courthouses to carry out routine immigration enforcement actions deters members of our communities from exercising their constitutional rights, satisfying their civic duties, and conducting other important business.
We ask that DHS issue new department-wide guidance that ensures that courts—like schools, hospitals, places of worship—are safe places that can be accessed by all people.  No one should be afraid of going to court to seek essential services and protection from the court.
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