California’s highest ranking judicial officer has waded once again into the politically fraught debate over the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policy.
State Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who has previously condemned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations at court facilities, said Tuesday she has a duty to call out federal agents who arrest illegal immigrants in or near the California’s courthouses.
“If no one ever speaks out, then we can never be the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Cantil-Sakauye said at a panel discussion hosted by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Cantil-Sakauye is one of California’s most outspoken public officials in a state widely regarded as the toughest opponent of President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda. In a March letter, she criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for allowing ICE to conduct operations in California courts, saying that immigration agents were “stalking” illegal immigrants and undermining “access to equal justice.”
The chief justice’s remarks on Tuesday came as the California Assembly legislature takes up Senate Bill 54, a sanctuary state proposal that would prohibit the use of state and local public resources to aid federal immigration enforcement. If enacted, the so-called California Values Act would effectively cut off all voluntary cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE, except in cases required by federal law.
One provision tucked into the bill prevents ICE agents from accessing jails to interview or take custody of criminal aliens without a judicial warrant. Critics of the measure, including Los Angles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, say it will force ICE to go looking for criminal aliens in the community, where illegal immigrants without criminal convictions will also be apprehended.
Sessions and Kelly offered a similar criticism in March when they responded to Cantil-Sakauye’s letter. Sanctuary city policies blocking ICE access to jails leave immigration agents no choice but to find and arrest people in public spaces including courthouses, the administration officials said.
Cantil-Sakauye dismissed that line of argument Tuesday, saying that courts should be safe havens where illegal immigrants are free to testify as crime witnesses or victims without fear of running into ICE officers.
“We’re seeing people not coming to court, not reporting to court, not coming for services (and) not coming to testify … This has an effect not only on the immediate case and the safety of communities, but people who live in the communities,” she said.