Politics & Government

Brown vetoes bill that would have stopped ICE courthouse arrests

ICE can continue to make arrests in courthouses statewide, at least for now.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill late Thursday that would have prevented civil arrests of people attending proceedings in courthouses — like those carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at the Fresno County Superior Court since mid-July.

The bill, initially labeled Senate Bill 183 and later SB 349, would have clarified “ the power of judicial officers to prevent activities that threaten access to courthouses.”

Brown said while he supported the purpose of the bill, he worried signing it could have “unintended consequences.”

Even though the bill wasn’t signed, polices scheduled to be released soon could prevent ICE from making arrests in courthouses across the state.

Last year, Brown signed Senate Bill 54, also known as the state’s sanctuary law, authored by legislator Kevin de Leon. Under that legislation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has until Oct. 1 to issue model policies that will limit assistance by local jurisdictions — including courthouses — with federal immigration agencies on enforcement.

Local agencies will have to implement those model practices limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials, or use equivalent guidelines.

Those policies will ensure all public places “remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status,” Brown said in his veto letter.

“I believe the prudent path is to allow for that guidance to be released before enacting new laws in this area,” he wrote.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, author of the bill, said in a statement Thursday that he agreed with Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and local judges the safety of the community depends on people having access to justice in the court system.

“When people are afraid to be witnesses or plead their cases it puts the integrity of our courts at risk. I am hopeful that the Department of Justice model policies will help protect the fair administration of justice,” the statement said.

In late July, Lara told The Bee California had to protect the public’s right to participate in court hearings and allow the courts to fulfill their responsibility.

Ariana Martinez Lott, with Faith in the Valley, believes the bill’s veto disappointed many. She doesn’t think the reason given by Brown was enough to justify having vetoed the bill.

The legislation, Martinez Lott said, had the ability “to really maximize completely banning immigration” agents from courthouses.

“A lot of judges feel like their hands are tied,” she said. “I think this would have really helped strengthen what their powers are, and given them confidence by having a law backing up their decisions.”

When families don’t have access to justice in a court, it affects the entire community, Martinez Lott said.

“There is so much distrust right now,” she said.

Yesenia Amaro: 559-441-6144, @YeseniaAmaro

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