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Attorney General Donovan Joins Coalition Fighting Immigration Arrests at State Courthouses

January 17, 2020

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171


Attorney General T.J. Donovan today joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general to halt federal immigration arrests of noncitizens without a judicial warrant or court order in and around state courthouses. In an amicus brief filed in State of Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; et al., the coalition argues in support of Washington State’s request for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt such arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

“The right to access courts is a fundamental right to any democracy,” said Attorney General Donovan. “A just and peaceful community depends on unfettered access to our system of justice for all Vermonters.”

Last month, the Office of the Washington State Attorney General sued ICE, the CBP, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among others, arguing that the federal government’s policy and practice of arresting noncitizens — both undocumented and those with legal status alike — at or around state courthouses violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Tenth Amendment, and the right of access to courts, which is protected by the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Washington filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the Trump Administration’s policies.

In Vermont, ICE arrested a man outside a Burlington courthouse in 2017 as he was on his way to attend a preliminary hearing for a DUI charge. The prosecution dismissed the charge at the hearing. The same year, another man was arrested as he entered a Windsor County courthouse to respond to a DUI charge.  On New Year’s Eve 2018, a local activist was arrested inside a Middlebury courthouse immediately after he pleaded not guilty to a DUI charge.

ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing state courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations.

Attorney General Donovan joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia in filing today’s brief.