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14 US Attorneys General, Including Frosh, File Brief Calling For End To Immigration Arrests At State Courthouses

BOSTON, Mass. (WJZ) -- More than a dozen attorneys general, including Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, have filed a brief in a case out of Massachusetts that stops federal immigration arrests from happening in or around state courthouses without a warrant or court order.

In the brief, the group argued a 2017 policy change allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct civil immigration arrests near courthouses threatens states' sovereignty and harms the criminal justice process by scaring victims and witnesses from testifying.

The plaintiffs had also argued the arrests violate the First, Fifth, Sixth, Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

"The practical effect has been to disrupt the effective functioning of our state courts and hinder both criminal and civil proceedings," the brief reads. "Due both to the arrests and detentions themselves and to their terrorizing effect, witnesses and parties miss court appearances, victims are afraid to seek judicial relief or cooperate with prosecutors and police, and prosecutors are unable to obtain justice for the people whom they serve."

In a news release Tuesday, Frosh said the ICE policy "makes law enforcement more difficult," calling it "illegal and discriminatory."

In 2019, a Massachusetts judge blocked ICE from arresting people suspected of being in the country illegally at courthouses as the court examines the case. The state court ultimately approved an injunction but the Trump administration appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

ICE, meanwhile, has argued the federal government has "broad, undoubted power" on immigration issues and said the plaintiffs, including the district attorneys of Middlesex and Suffolk counties in Massachusetts, "cannot assert any harm that outweighs the harm that the government suffers when it is unable to enforce the immigration laws."

The agency said it has allowed arrests at courthouses "in limited circumstances" since 2014. In 2018, ICE updated its policy to classify courthouse arrests as necessary "when local jurisdictions decline 'to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from' secure locations like 'their prisons and jails,'" adding they should be done discreetly and with as little impact on courthouse operations as possible.

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