Oregon’s top judge asked about immigration arrests in courthouses

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made arrests in or near 10 of Oregon’s 27 state circuit courts, according to state records obtained by Salem Reporter.

The records, released under a public records request, shed light on the scope of ICE’s increased activity in Oregon courthouses, which has become a source of contention between state and federal officials. After President Donald Trump took office in 2017, ICE significantly increased its presence in state courthouses, arresting individuals suspected to be in the country illegally.

Civil rights advocates and members of the legal community have complained that the arrests have had a chilling effect on the willingness of immigrants to participate in legal proceedings. In November, Martha Walters, Oregon Supreme Court chief justice, joined a handful of other states in enacting a rule restricting ICE’s ability to make courthouse arrests.

The newly disclosed emails shed light on the scope of ICE arrests in Oregon courthouses — or at least how aware state judges have been.

Walters emailed the state’s presiding circuit court judges last March asking whether they were aware of ICE arrests in their courthouses. She also asked about the frequency of arrests, as well as where in the courthouse they occurred and if ICE agents notified court security staff.

Months later, 10 judges responded that ICE had made arrests in or near their courts. Most of the reported arrests occurred in Oregon’s more populated areas, including Multnomah, Marion and Washington counties. Judges overseeing courts serving large swaths of rural Oregon reported no arrests.

The Oregon Judicial Department didn’t respond to written questions about the matter.

Federal officials have issued confrontational statements in response to Oregon enacting the rule. But earlier correspondence between federal and state officials was diplomatic and even deferential.

Courthouse arrests

Some judges wrote to Walters that they consulted with court staff, the sheriff’s office or defense lawyers about ICE arrests. Most judges gave short responses or didn’t list the number of arrests or offer a time frame. Others gave more detailed answers on ICE’s activities, describing how agents wore plain clothes and don’t coordinate with security staff.

By Jake Thomas for MAIL TRIBUNE
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