SANTA MARIA, Calif. --Central Coast prosecutors and immigration advocates are reacting after ICE arrested at least three people at a Bay Area courthouse this week. Under California's sanctuary state law, courthouses are supposed to be off limits for federal agents.
“We think this is horrible," said Abraham Melendrez of CAUSE. “What Trump's deportation machine, the ICE agents are doing, is they're undermining our public safety.”
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed up unannounced to arrest at least three people at Sonoma County courthouse.
Those detained were there as requested by the court to clear up misdemeanor violations.
“Now this is just driving people more underground and making all our communities less safe," said Melendrez.
State law is supposed to forbid immigration detentions anywhere near a courthouse. Now advocates say this will discourage immigrants from participating in the justice system.
“Whether it's to report a crime, to be a witness, [because] you're essentially telling them that nowhere is safe," Melendrez said.
In a statement, ICE defended its actions, saying in part:
“Our officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws to remove criminal aliens from our communities.”
“Under well established doctrine under our U.S Constitution, the federal government has a right to be there and state law does not apply to the federal government," said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow.
Dow says at the same time, the arrests could have unintended consequences.
“Sadly, those in our immigrant community, many of them undocumented, are victims of crime. And I certainly don't want them to be intimidated from being able to come into court and seeking the relief that is afforded to them.”
Dow says victims of crime who are undocumented can qualify for a U-Visa, “which will allow them to remain at least as long as that case is pending, until their status can be otherwise determined by INS.”
According to ICE, the men who were arrested had multiple convictions for crimes like battery, DUI, domestic violence, and previous deportations.
The Sonoma County and San Francisco district attorneys also condemned the ICE detentions.
Our newsroom reached out to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office and the Public Defender's office for comment and we're still waiting to hear back.