As Obama Nears 2 Million Deportations, WI Reps Join Families Calling on ICE to Stay Out of County Courthouses

(Click here to read the community letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Nearly 2 million people have been deported since Barack Obama took office – more than under any other President in history.

In order to meet detention and deportation quotas, U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents based out of Milwaukee have been interrogating and detaining people who go to courthouses throughout Wisconsin to attend hearings, pay fines, be present in family court, and otherwise access court services.  ICE often​ only goes to courts on days when Spanish interpreters are present, leading to ​numerous allegations of racial profiling.

By making immigrants afraid to go to court or contact law enforcement, these practices undermine public safety, when people fear reporting crimes as victims or witnesses or are denied protections from the court from cases such as domestic violence. These practices jeopardize immigration status and hope of legalizing in the future.

Yesterday 22 Wisconsin state representatives sent a letter to ICE requesting that it immediately stop intimidating practices at Wisconsin’s courthouses.

“Members of our community should be able to enter our courthouses without being racially profiled,” said Rep. Cory Mason. “These practices described by constituents are deeply disturbing and must be halted immediately.”

“The reports of ICE officials racially profiling and intimidating Latino and non-English speaking individuals in our courthouses is deeply troubling and needs to be addressed immediately,” said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa. “This conduct by ICE officials perpetuates racial stereotypes in our communities and deters Wisconsin residents from cooperating with law enforcement and our judicial system for fear of being profiled.”

On Monday, February 24th​, ​students, workers, community leaders, business owners, elected officials, and survivors of ICE harassment will hold a rally and press conference in front of the ICE office in the USCIS building in downtown Milwaukee, calling for the following:

1) We request a meeting with the Acting Director of ICE, Chicago Field Office Director Ricardo Wong, and Deputy Secretary of DHS Alejandro Mayorkas. This meeting should take place in Milwaukee and include concerned local public officials, community leaders, affected community members, and include the signatories of this letter.

2) ICE should investigate the courthouse arrest and interrogation practices of its Milwaukee Field Office, including allegations of racial profiling. ICE should also investigate the nature of any tips received from county personnel and the apparent violations of agents’ warrantless arrest and interrogation authority under 8 U.S.C. § 1357. ICE should take steps to ensure that its officers are properly trained on governing ICE enforcement policy and the statutory and constitutional limitations on its arrest and interrogation authority.

3) We urge ICE to revise its policies and trainings to ensure that courthouse arrests do not occur in Wisconsin or any other location, and to ensure that ICE agents do not arrest or detain people based on information they learn because the people have mandatory court appearances or otherwise access court services. ICE should update its Sensitive Locations Memo to explicitly include courthouses as a “sensitive location” site, and ensure that its agents are properly trained not to conduct enforcement actions at courthouses absent extraordinary circumstances. ICE should institute measures to hold agents accountable to this agreement.

“Courts should be a safe place for people complying with or seeking protection from the legal system,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. “Voces is committed to informing the affected community about their rights and to challenge this abuse.”

Three Case Histories

Ozaukee County:  Jose Calderon (A#205-153-988) – detained after paying a fine for driving without a license

Mr. Calderon was detained in the Ozaukee County Courthouse on July 8, 2013, after attending a hearing and paying a fine for driving without a license. Aside from two citations for driving without a license, Mr. Calderon has no criminal record. He has lived in Milwaukee since 1997, and is married with two young U.S. citizen children. After Mr. Calderon paid his traffic fine, two ICE agents in plainclothes and a sheriff’s deputy stopped him. The ICE agents asked him in English if he was Jose Calderon. After he said yes, the ICE agents led him to another room in the courthouse, where three ICE agents in plainclothes were holding approximately four other people they had detained that day, all Latinos present in court for hearings related to driving without a license. Mr. Calderon’s immigration attorney was present with him at the court, but the agents refused to allow him to accompany his client into the room. They proceeded to question Mr. Calderon. From the courthouse, Mr. Calderon was taken to the ICE office in downtown Milwaukee, interrogated more, and released on his own recognizance.

Mr. Calderon believes that his name was on a list people who had hearings that day for driving without a license. There appears to have been some level of collusion between sheriff’s deputies and ICE agents to ensure the agents stopped the people on the list. According to Mr. Calderon, prior to his arrest, he had no prior contact with ICE, nor had he ever been arrested during the seventeen years he has lived in the United States. He believes he and the others detained that day were interrogated only because he was a Latino man in court for a hearing for driving without a license, in violation of ICE agents’ warrantless authority under 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2). Now he is in deportation proceedings and faces permanent separation from his family.

Milwaukee County: Angela Angeles España (A#200-779-385) – detained after attending court as a spectator at her mother’s hearing

In July 2012, ICE agents detained Angela Angeles España and placed her in deportation proceedings after she came to the Milwaukee County Courthouse to support her mother at a court hearing. ICE agents came to detain her mother. After the agents took her away they asked Mrs. Angeles España her name. They did not let her leave while they went to make a phone call. After they got off the phone, they told her that she was “illegal,” and took her to the ICE office in downtown Milwaukee. There they interrogated her and opened deportation proceedings against her before releasing her on her own recognizance because she has no criminal record. Mrs. Angeles España has lived in Milwaukee since 2005 and is married with three young, U.S. citizen children. Like Mr. Calderon, she now faces permanent separation from her family.

Mrs. Angeles España also appears to have been questioned without any reason to believe that she was an alien. Mrs. Angeles España believes that she was interrogated only because she was a Latino woman and in court with another person detained that day.

Racine County: Angel Perez Juan (A#076-656-896) – detained and deported after trying to attend a hearing for driving without a license

On August 28, 2013, Angel Perez Juan went to the Racine County Courthouse for a hearing concerning driving without a license. He has lived in the United States since 1998 and has no criminal record aside from driving without a license infractions. Mr. Perez Juan is married and has two adolescent U.S. citizen children.

Mr. Perez Juan sat in Judge Emily Mueller’s courtroom along with other Spanish-speaking Latino people in court for driving without a license hearings. The interpreter was late that day. According to Mr. Perez Juan, after some two hours ICE agents in plainclothes entered the courtroom and proceeded to question people in the court. The agents asked Mr. Perez Juan his name but no questions about his immigration status. Even so, the agents chained Mr. Perez Juan and six others in the courtroom by their hands and feet. All seven were Spanish-speaking Latinos present in court for hearings concerning driving without a license. Mr. Perez Juan was never allowed to go before Judge Mueller concerning his charge for driving without a license.

The agents then took the group to the Kenosha County Jail, where they were held for three days. The agents told Mr. Perez Juan that they had no information concerning him. When he asked why they were detaining him, the agents only told him that he was in the country illegally and that they were going to take him before an immigration judge. After three days, the agents took Mr. Perez Juan to the Milwaukee ICE Office, interrogated him, and processed him for deportation.

Mr. Perez Juan appears to have been detained by ICE for three days before agents even took his fingerprints or questioned him concerning his immigration status. The six others detained with him the same day had a similar experience. Mr. Perez Juan believes he was arrested simply because of his Latino appearance and because he was at court for a hearing concerning driving without a license, in violation of agents’ warrantless authority under 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2).

Mr. Perez Juan was deported on September 20th. The stress caused by this experience has aggravated the symptoms of his son’s severe asthma. Mr. Perez Juan’s wife has suffered depression which at times has left her unable to work. Mr. Perez Juan lives in Ciudad Juarez, where he works as a cook, as he did in the United States. He talks with his family once a week.


This post is also available in: Spanish