Barr Opposes Oregon Rule That Inhibits ICE Arrests

November 28, 2019 Updated: November 28, 2019

U.S. Attorney General William Barr denounced Oregon’s new rule that federal immigration agents must have warrants to make arrests on courthouse properties.

The criticism of the Oregon policy came in a Nov. 21 letter signed by Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. It also advised Washington state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst against following suit by enacting similar rules.

“We urge you both to reconsider this dangerous and unlawful course of action,” Barr and Wolf wrote. “Cooperation among local, state, and federal law enforcement officers is in the public interest and promotes safe communities.”

Activists and some officials say the arrests at courthouses have a chilling effect on illegal aliens trying to avail themselves of the justice system. 

The arrests primarily target criminal aliens.

Barr and Wolf said, “Instead of permitting the safe transfer of custody of criminal aliens in a secure environment, these dangerous state laws and policies force federal law enforcement officers to locate and arrest criminal aliens at-large within communities at potentially great peril to the officers and the public.”

It can be safer for ICE agents to make arrests at courthouses than by raiding people’s homes. 

Oregon’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters enacted the new rule on Nov. 14. Barr and Wolf said it contradicts Congress’s determination that ICE officers aren’t required to have signed warrants to carry out arrests.  

Under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, the rule “cannot and will not govern the conduct of federal officers,” they said. 

Both Oregon and Washington are so-called sanctuary states; they limit their cooperation with ICE. 

Washington’s Fairhurst wrote a letter to the Trump administration in 2017 complaining about immigration arrests at or near her state’s courthouses, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Courts in New York and New Jersey have also moved to limit ICE access to courthouses. California has enacted laws to codify the state’s resistance to ICE enforcement efforts.

All courthouses in Massachusetts became ICE-free zones on June 20 when Judge Indira Talwani, of the U.S. District Court in Boston, granted a preliminary injunction barring ICE from detaining suspected illegal aliens on judicial soil.

The injunction in Massachusetts came in Ryan v. ICE, a lawsuit brought by Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, both Democrats. 

Ryan said the ruling was “a critical step in the right direction for our Commonwealth and it should be a model for our nation.”

President Donald Trump called into the “Adriana Cohen Show” in Boston in May to take aim at Ryan and Rollins for their lawsuit.

“These are people that probably don’t mind crime, they don’t mind what’s going on,” Trump said. “You look at MS-13, they say in the world there’s nothing more evil. These are some very, very bad people. To try and protect them, I don’t think so.”

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