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Undocumented immigrants arrested in California courthouse — despite state law

ICE immigration customs enforcement arrest two mexican men immigrants courthouse california federal state law charges
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Story at a glance

  • ICE agents arrested two undocumented immigrants in a California courthouse on Tuesday.
  • This is a direct violation of state law.
  • The two men are reportedly from Mexico and have several prior convictions and outstanding charges.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents reportedly violated a California state law that prohibits immigration officers from arresting undocumented immigrants without a judicial warrant on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. 

Two people were arrested in the Sonoma County Superior Court in Northern California, one of whom was supposedly awaiting a hearing. This goes directly against Assembly Bill No.668, the law that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed in October 2019. 

The bill reiterates California’s power to regulate what occurs on state courthouse grounds, and fundamentally declares that “A person shall not be subject to civil arrest in a courthouse while attending a court proceeding or having legal business in the courthouse.”

Only the presence of a valid judicial warrant would allow officers — either ICE or other law enforcement — to arrest someone awaiting hearings in California. 

ICE justified the arrests by saying that California’s law does not supersede federal law, which still grants immigration enforcement officers authority to arrest “removable aliens inside the United States.”

“Our officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws to remove criminal aliens from our communities,” David Jennings, ICE’s field office director in San Francisco, said in a statement quoted in AP.

The Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin protested the arrests. Ravitch was quoted in Patch as saying, “ICE detention actions have no place in the court building, where they have the effect of scaring away witnesses and victims, and undermines the District Attorney’s Office ability to hold the guilty accountable and protect crime victims.” 

Sonoma County general counsel Bruce Goldstein further called the arrests “lawless,” since no necessary judicial records were included. 

Both arrested men are from Mexico, according to Justin Moor, a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Moor explained that the men had been arrested before. Antonio Hernandez Lopez has pending charges against him, including domestic abuse, a DUI and witness tampering. Lopez also has prior convictions for a 2005 DUI and a 2009 local ordinance conviction, according to Moor. 

The other man arrested was Pedro Romero Aguirre, who, according to Moor, also has “five criminal convictions spanning more than a decade, such as trespassing, driving without a license, and a DUI.”