Massachusetts prosecutors sue ICE over courthouse arrests

Massachusetts prosecutors sue ICE over courthouse arrests

A pair of Massachusetts district attorneys filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday, asking that a federal judge place an injunction on the agency’s directive authorizing the arrests of undocumented immigrants at state courthouses.

In the lawsuit, the district attorneys for Middlesex and Suffolk counties allege that an ICE directive authorizing the civil arrests of undocumented immigrants at courthouses is in violation of long-standing practices — and is harming the judicial system.


“Entire communities now view the Massachusetts courts as places where they cannot go, for any reason, greatly impeding access to justice and undermining the administration of justice in these communities,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit claims that while Congress gave ICE the authority to carry out civil immigration arrests, it “retained traditional common-law limitations on that arrest power — including that such arrests cannot be made against parties and witnesses attending court on official business.”

The complaint also argues that the directive allowing arrests at state courthouses is a federal overreach in violation of the 10th Amendment, and that the policy also “violates the Constitutional right of access to the courts.”

The Committee for Public Counsel Services, which represents public defenders in the state, as well as the local organization Chelsea Collaborative, are also behind the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit states that the Chelsea Collaborative, which often works with immigrants, has been forced to find options outside of the courts to resolve disputes like domestic violence or labor conditions because its members are too afraid to go to court.

The legal action comes just days after a federal judge in Massachusetts was indicted for allegedly helping an immigrant avoid being detained by ICE at a courthouse.

Immigration advocacy groups — as well as some former judges — have similarly called for ICE to stop arresting suspected undocumented immigrants at courthouses, citing reasons similar to those featured in Monday’s lawsuit.