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State AG Sues to Block Courthouse Arrests of WA Immigrants

Hundreds of immigrants have been detained outside courthouses across Washington state since 2017, according to the state Attorney General's office. (Joe Wolf/Flickr)
Hundreds of immigrants have been detained outside courthouses across Washington state since 2017, according to the state Attorney General's office. (Joe Wolf/Flickr)
December 20, 2019

SEATTLE - Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the federal government over its policy of immigration arrests near courthouses.

He says the policy violates states' rights to operate their own justice systems under the 10th Amendment and impedes an individual's right to access the courts. The president of the Washington State Association for Justice, John Allison, agrees, saying courthouses are sanctuaries for justice.

Allison says in certain circumstances, witnesses may be afraid to come forward and offer testimony because of the threat of detainment.

"We know there are examples of domestic violence victims who are afraid to come forward because they might be nabbed in one of these raids," says Allison. "And because of that, the criminal elements who cause the harm are continuing to go free."

Federal officials say sanctuary policies like those in Washington state have made it harder to detain violent criminals, which is why they have resorted to courthouse arrests.

Both Allison and AG Ferguson acknowledge that some of the people arrested were charged with serious crimes. But Allison notes that even judges and law enforcement officials believe this practice has negative consequences for the justice system.

"We have elected prosecutors - people who are sworn to uphold the law and to prosecute criminals - who are stepping forward and agreeing with the idea that this is the wrong approach," says Allison. "And when you have that, together with judges and the chief justice coming forward, we want the federal government to listen and revisit what they're doing."

According to the Attorney General's office, hundreds of arrests have occurred outside Washington state courthouses since 2017.

Disclosure: Washington State Association for Justice contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA