Advocates from California Rapid Response Network and the San Francisco Public Defender's office gather in front of San Francisco's Hall of Justice. Photo by Loi Almeron.

Immigration advocates and public defenders from San Francisco, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Alameda Counties gathered in front of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice Monday to condemn arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers outside California courthouses in the past two weeks.

“We’re not gonna put up with you anymore,” said attorney Renee Saucedo from the Graton Day Labor Center regarding the ICE arrests. “You’re a bunch of immoral people and we don’t want you.”

On March 3, Alberto Uc Ponce, 43, was arrested by ICE agents only steps away from the site of today’s press conference while on his way to a court hearing. He is currently incarcerated in an ICE Detention Center in Bakersfield, according to his lawyer, Emi Maclean.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Uc Ponce said in a message read by Maclean. “What happened to me should not happen to anyone. A court should be a safe place.”

“He had a court hearing he was obligated to attend,” added Maclean, a San Francisco public defender. “He was arrested for doing the right thing: showing up at court.”

According to advocates, this is the first time such a targeted courthouse immigration arrest has happened in San Francisco. But it is not an isolated case. 

In the past two weeks, ICE agents targeted at least seven other people outside courthouses in Sonoma and Santa Clara counties.

“We survived something very similar to what happened here in San Francisco,” said Saucedo. She also serves as a lawyer with the Sonoma Rapid Response Network. “We had at least two compañeros detained by ICE and ultimately deported.”

Saucedo said that one man was detained in the lobby of the Sonoma County Hall of Justice while approaching his public defender. Another was arrested after getting out of his car and walking up the steps of the building. ICE did not possess the necessary warrants in either case, Saucedo said.

Santa Clara County officials fought multiple incidents in the recent weeks as well. The Rapid Response Network “verified and confirmed four attempts by ICE officers to arrest community members attending their court hearings,” said Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, the attorney coordinator for Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network. He said that in all four cases, ICE agents “lacked judicial warrants, as required by California law.”

“In one occasion, our network legal observer showed up and verified the ICE violations until the officers departed the court premises without making a single arrest,” he said. “That day, our community won.”

“California is intentionally a sanctuary state,” said Yolanda Jackson, executive director and general counsel of the Bar Association of San Francisco and Justice & Diversity Center. “Congress has not yet abrogated the longstanding immunity, which lists ICE’s enforcement powers. Shortly said, [ICE doesn’t] have the power to do what they’re doing.”

“ICE’s unlawful tactics are nothing new,” Reyes Savalza said. Jackson agreed. She reminded attendees of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s objection to ICE’s targeting of court buildings three years ago.

“Immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote in a 2017 letter to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.”

That same year, California passed Senate Bill 54, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from assisting the federal government in conducting immigration enforcement activities. It also requires the Attorney General to limit local and state assistance “to the fullest extent possible” in ensuring that public spaces, such as courthouses, “remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status.”

Advocates on Monday said that ICE is violating this state law.

“San Francisco will not allow such egregious abuse of power to go unchecked,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju in a statement. “We will provide immediate and zealous representation to anyone subject to such legal activity.”

The San Francisco Immigrant Legal & Education Network encourages undocumented immigrants who have upcoming court hearings to contact them beforehand so that they can provide any legal assistance necessary. Their hotline is at (415) 200-1548.

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11 Comments

  1. Who’s really :immoral here ? I’d like to hear from the Bologna family on that classification.

  2. Mr. or Mrs. Almeron,

    I found this article both interesting and informative. However, I couldn’t seem to find which lW was broken by the ICE Agents taking the subject into custody. Could you kindly direct me to which statute or code section it was that they violated?

  3. What crimes were they charged with for their court appearances? Did I miss that detail in the article, or was it intentionally left out? Seems odd not to mention that.

    There was a similar case in NY where ICE arrested a guy who raped a 13 year old child, but the court let him out and didn’t honor the ICE hold request.

    https://nypost.com/2020/03/03/ice-arrests-illegal-immigrant-accused-of-raping-brooklyn-teen-after-city-cut-him-loose/

    I get the point of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. when they are making a positive contribution to society, but when they rape a child… not so much.

    There’s a point at which we’ve got to say sorry, you’ve overstayed your welcome.

  4. Hardee, har, har. Love what ICE is doing. Tiresome lectures about their “compañeros” rights from advocates. We have the right to kick them out. How’bout them rights? The advocate community thinks they won at the state level, and here comes the Feds. Whoopsie. And Emi Maclean talking about her client only trying to meet his civil obligation by showing up to court. So what? He’s obligated not to be here committing whatever unreported crimes he’s getting deported for. How about following all laws, not just the ones you agree with? Thank you ICE agents for enforcing the law – the law abiding appreciate it.

  5. They are taxpayer terrorists and take away from citizens….I have a better idea…Turrets at the border and bullets fly if you come across leeches….

    1. Taxpayer Terrorists? I like that. Do most terrorists not pay taxes? Shouldn’t they pay taxes like everyone else? Should there be a tax on terrorism? As late Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg once suggested, a tax will help persuade terrorists to make healthier choices. And Turrets at the border! Brilliant. With or without the Wall? Even though leeches exist in watery not desert environments, and being small and slimy, flying bullets would probably miss most of them, jobs will be created and who knows, maybe some of those flying bullets can take down the corona virus droplets before they cross into our country.

  6. Thanks for covering this story! The ripple effects are so extensive when ICE creates fear in the community. I wish those who are in favor of conservative immigration policies could see the long-term negative effects that those policies have on immigrant families, which then impacts entire neighborhoods. It hurts businesses and schools and it destroys the basic trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities….If only ICE agents could hear Oscar Romero’s famous plea, “I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”

    1. Some members of these advocacy group are putting pressure on immigrants such as myself to not report or provide leads to crimes against women and children. They are pushing their own agenda with total disregard for the impact of truly innocent people. It sickens me how some members within the advocacy group have actually threatened and made lives of the non-conformists (like my immigrant ESL self) hell to push their own agenda. Hypocrisy at its best!

      Why does this guy have a court date? Was a legit reason?

  7. So, let’s set the stage. ICE can make arrest with ot without a warrant (8 usc 1357) gives them that authority.

    Second, in 99% of these arrest ICE more than likely has a warrant of arrest (I200) in their possession. They are in no way obligated to show anyone other than the criminal alien.

    Third, violating state law, where does a federal officer need to comply with a state law, they dont.

  8. Glad ICE is doing this and ignoring sanctuary state nonsense!! Criminals have no entitlement to be here!

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