UPDATE (Nov. 14, 5:35 p.m. PT) — Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters enacted a new rule Thursday that will make it harder for immigration agents to make civil arrests in the state’s courthouses.
The new rule requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to have a signed judicial warrant if they plan to enter a courthouse to make an arrest. In the past, ICE agents have used administrative warrants that are signed by other ICE officers, rather than a neutral third party, like a judge.
The new rule follows a petition that was sent to the court by immigrants’ rights groups in December 2018. They have argued, among other things, that immigration arrests around and near courthouses puts a chilling effect on those seeking access to the justice system.
“Adopting this rule protects the integrity of the state judicial process and will allow state courts to fully hold accountable people accused of a crime,” Walters said in a release. “Arrests in courthouses have interfered with judicial proceedings and removed criminal defendants before they have been sentenced or completed their sentences. We are adopting this rule to maintain the integrity of our courts and provide access to justice — not to advance or oppose any political or policy agenda.”
The rule also bans civil immigration arrests in courthouses, their parking lots, sidewalks and entryways, unless a judge has signed an arrest warrant.
Oregon is the third state, after New York and New Jersey, to issue a statewide court rule. California lawmakers passed a rule that offers similar protections to immigrants, according to the ACLU of Oregon.
Immigration advocates have criticized ICE’s courthouse arrests, especially in Multnomah and Washington counties, where high-profile arrests have happened in recent years.
As a result of the ruling, “our clients, witnesses and other courtgoers can participate in our judicial system without fear of being arrested and detained by ICE,” said Carl McPherson, executive director of Metropolitan Public Defender. “By issuing this rule, the chief justice has ensured that access to our courts is protected for all people regardless of their immigration status.”
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum applauded the ruling and said courthouses should be treated like schools, places of worship, hospitals and other sensitive places where immigration arrests typically do not happen.
ICE officials quickly criticized the ruling Thursday.
“It is ironic that elected officials want to see policies in place to keep ICE out of courthouses, while caring little for laws enacted by Congress to keep criminal aliens out of our country,” ICE spokesperson Tanya Roman said in a statement.
Roman said ICE would continue to carry out its duties and “consider carefully whether to refer those who obstruct our lawful enforcement efforts for criminal prosecution.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Oregon, which prosecutes immigration cases in the state, declined to comment on the ruling.
While there is a public comment period between mid-December and April, the rule is currently in effect.