New videos show ICE making arrests at Denver courthouses

DENVER -- New videos have surfaced showing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arresting undocumented immigrants in Denver courthouses.

The videos -- recorded on April 28 and May 5 -- show agents arresting two men after their court appearances for misdemeanor convictions.

The first video documents the arrest of a man who appeared at the Denver County Court on April 28 for a pending misdemeanor traffic case.

The second video documents Meyer Law Office client Antonio Garcia, who was arrested at the Denver County Court on Friday after appearing in court on a misdemeanor case.

"We have a message and the message from ICE is we don't care," said Hans Meyer, an immigration attorney.

It was Meyer's law office that released the video recordings. Meyer's main concern is agents conducted the arrests after Denver sent a letter urging ICE to stay away from the courthouse.

"ICE has made very clear they are not going to comply with the requests of local government," Meyer said.

In the legal community, there are also concerns that similar videos will only increase the number of Hispanic Coloradans who do not show up to court.

"We have already had a domestic violence victim contact us in impending cases and let us know they are not going forward and testify in court for fear of deportation," Meyer said.

But ICE agents might be following protocol. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly said arresting individuals at court is the safest place for ICE agents to do it.

ICE issued a statement in response to the news conference.

"On April 28, officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) encountered Alvaro-Tirzo Sauceda-Malgon, 39, from Mexico, while he was exiting a Denver courthouse.  He was arrested as an immigration fugitive since Sauceda-Malgon received final orders of deportation from a federal immigration judge in 2012.  He has two misdemeanor convictions.  He remains in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

On May 5, ICE officers encountered Antonio Garcia, 45, from Mexico, while he was exiting a Denver courthouse. Garcia has two convictions for driving under the influence (DUI), and he has pleaded guilty to two additional charges since January 2017.  He remains in ICE custody pending removal proceedings."

The city of Denver also released a statement.

"These enforcement actions that are taking place in sensitive locations directly contradict written guidance provided by the Department of Homeland Security and strike fear in the heart of our immigrant community.

The City and County of Denver outlined these impacts very clearly to ICE. We asked them to respect sensitive locations and take measures around these sensitive areas so as not to potentially put by-standers at risk, hinder the prosecution of crimes or compromise police-community relationships vital to public safety.  It is disappointing that they have not responded to our requests.

We believe courthouses, hospitals, schools, and places of worship deserve special protection from immigration enforcement. But like cities and counties throughout the United States, Denver does not bar ICE officials from entering public buildings. We will continue to drive a clear and unwavering message to ICE that this is not the right approach and they must find another route to enforcing immigration laws."

Background information
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement actions every day in locations around the country as part of the agency’s mission to protect public safety, border security, and the integrity of the nation’s immigration system. ICE also periodically conducts expanded enforcement actions as operational needs demand. The agency’s pursuit of criminal aliens is motivated solely by our commitment to promote public safety.

Courthouse arrests

Current ICE guidance directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances. The locations specified in the guidance include schools, places of worship and hospitals. Under this ICE policy, courthouses are not considered sensitive locations.  ICE arrests targets at courthouses, such as the following:

  • Many of the arrest targets ICE has sought out at or near courthouses are foreign nationals who have prior criminal convictions in the U.S. In years past, most of these individuals would have been turned over to ICE by local authorities upon their release from jail based on ICE detainers.
  • When criminal custody transfers occur inside the secure confines of a jail or prison, it’s far safer for everyone involved, including our officers and the person being arrested.
  • Now that some law enforcement agencies no longer honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat. When ICE Fugitive Operations officers have to proactively search for these criminal aliens, regardless of the precautions they take, it needlessly puts our personnel and potentially innocent bystanders in harm’s way.
  • Moreover, tracking down our priority fugitives is highly resource-intensive. It’s not uncommon for our criminal alien targets to utilize multiple aliases and provide authorities with false addresses. Many do not have a stable place of employment.
  • Absent a viable address for a residence or place of employment, a courthouse may afford the most likely opportunity to locate a target and take him or her into custody.
  • Additionally, because courthouse visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband, the safety risks for the arresting officers and for the arrestee are substantially diminished.
  • In such instances where deportation officers seek to conduct an arrest at a courthouse, every effort is made to take the person into custody in a secure area, out of public view, but this is not always possible.

Sensitive locations
Current ICE policy directs agency personnel to avoid conducting enforcement activities at sensitive locations unless they have prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or in the event of exigent circumstances – see link. The locations specified in the guidance include schools, places of worship and hospitals.