Barr Says ICE Can Ignore Courtroom Sanctuary Policies in Letter to Oregon, Washington

November 22, 2019 Updated: November 22, 2019

Attorney General William Barr said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are being hindered by sanctuary policies and said agents, along with U.S. Customs Border and Protection (CBP) can defy state rules that try to restrict them from making arrests.

Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolfe wrote to Martha Walters, chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, and Mary Fairhurst, chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court, on Nov. 21.

Walters announced a new rule last week that barred ICE agents from detaining illegal immigrants at state courthouses.

“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. “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.”

The Washington Supreme Court is considering a similar measure.

Barr and Wolfe said Walters and Fairhurst should “reconsider this dangerous and unlawful course of action.”

“These states laws and policies force state and local officers to release criminal aliens into communities in your states, endangering the public and forcing it to bear the cost of any additional criminal acts they may proceed to commit,” Barr and Wolf wrote. “These policies have resulted in the release of criminal aliens with convictions for serious and violent offenses, such as domestic violence assaults, firearms offenses, drug trafficking offenses, and violation of protection orders.”

william barr
Attorney General William Barr speaks with an Associated Press reporter onboard an aircraft en route to Cleveland on Nov. 21, 2019. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

They noted some convicted criminals who have been released under sanctuary policies in Oregon and Washington, including an illegal immigrant who was released by Washington who went on to be arrested for the murder and dismemberment of his cousin, and an illegal alien who was released after being convicted of raping a disabled woman and later went after the victim, trying to strangle her to death.

“Put simply, the policies you are considering endanger the public and hamper law enforcement by interfering with that lawful process,” Barr and Wolfe wrote. “Given the clear public danger posed by these state laws and policies, we urge you not to adopt or enforce court rules that would make the situation worse by purporting to require ICE or CBP to obtain a judicial arrest warrant prior to making an administrative arrest for deportation.”

They then suggested agents would be able to ignore the rules even if they were put into place.

“We will further note that ICE and CBP officers are not subject to state rules that purport to restrict ICE and CBP from making administrative arrests on property that is otherwise open to the public and other law enforcement officers. Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, such rules cannot and will not govern the conduct of federal officers acting pursuant to duly enacted laws passed by Congress when those laws provide the authority to make administrative arrests of removable aliens inside the United States,” said the letter.

The letter comes after Montgomery County, Maryland recently changed some of its sanctuary policies after a slew of illegal immigrant males were released and later arrested for suspected rapes and sexual assaults, and after voters in Tuscon, Arizona voted down a measure that would have made the city an official sanctuary city. A federal judge last month also upheld a law in Florida that prohibits sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary policies have become increasingly popular in liberal states and cities, with widespread adoption in California and New York.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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