Another judge seeks halt to courthouse immigration arrests

AP News
Posted: Apr 19, 2017 5:31 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Another high-ranking judge on Wednesday asked Republican President Donald Trump's administration to avoid immigration arrests at state courthouses.

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner noted in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that federal immigration officials recently arrested two people in New Jersey courthouses. The arrests, Rabner said, could cause witnesses to stay silent or domestic abuse victims to avoid court.

"A true system of justice must have the public's confidence," he wrote.

Rabner wants Kelly to add courthouses to a list of sensitive locations, including houses of worship and schools, recognized by immigration officials.

He went on to say that for years state officials have cooperated with federal detainer requests, but he said the practice of publicly arresting possible immigration violators "sends a chilling message."

The letter comes after California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued a similar request last month. She wrote in her letter that "stalking undocumented immigrants" hinders their access to justice.

Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have defended the practice, saying visitors to courthouses are typically screened for weapons. They also took issue with use of the word "stalking." Rabner's letter didn't include similar language.

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Republican Gov. Chris Christie said he doesn't believe it's appropriate for the state's chief justice to be "attempting to dictate" to federal agencies. Rabner was appointed to the court by Democratic then-Gov. Jon Corzine in 2007 and was nominated for tenure by Christie in 2014.

Rabner didn't include more details on the arrests.

Trump has said his tough stance on illegal immigration and deportation is necessary to keep the country safe.

A message left with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.