Skip to main content

Should courthouses be off limits for immigration arrests in WA?

caption: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicle in downtown Seattle
Enlarge Icon
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicle in downtown Seattle
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Washington state’s highest-ranking judge is still waiting for federal immigration officials to write her back.

Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst requested that courthouses be off limits for immigration arrests. But that option will likely stay on the table for now.


Recent concerns about immigration agents showing up more at court came from across the state.

Fairhurst: "The ones I’ve had identified to me include Kent Regional Justice Center —so King County — Clark, Callam, Skagit, Chelan and Mason County."

Attorneys reported that immigration agents, or ICE, had arrested people outside court and now clients were scared to go there.

So Fairhurst wrote to the feds, asking them to back off.

Fairhurst: “We have to be sure that people can come to court to be witnesses, to get protection orders, to appear. If they fail to appear and it's a criminal matter, then they have an additional problem. They need to know that the courts are safe and that they can access justice and receive due process.”

Fairhurst asked ICE to add courthouses to its list of "sensitive locations" that are generally avoided, like churches and schools.

White House officials have responded — not directly to Fairhurst, but to a similar letter from a California judge.

The response gives no indication that ICE practices will change. It says policies in some local jurisdictions hinder ICE from making these arrests at jails. And courthouses offer a safe alternative, because people are typically screened there for weapons.

An ICE spokeswoman in Seattle confirmed that ICE does make targeted arrests at courthouses, but generally only after they’ve exhausted other options and efforts are made to make the arrest in a secure area out of public view.

Why you can trust KUOW