United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers claim that they’re conducting courthouse arrests — many of them without judicial warrants — to protect Americans from dangerous foreign nationals.
But what’s so dangerous about an immigrant caught driving without a license or someone who made an ordinary traffic mistake and got into an accident? Instead of high-level gang members, drug kingpins and murderers, ICE arrests at a courthouse are more likely to net people who are simply caught in a bad situation. Like other people in this country, they’re responsible enough to show up for court when they’re required — but they may face additional trouble once ICE decides to step in.
This isn’t just an issue that affects criminal matters, either. The fear of an ICE arrest can keep undocumented immigrants from being able to pursue just about any official issue — whether that’s seeking legal protection against domestic violence or fighting an abusive landlord. However, ICE doesn’t seem to be concerned about civil liberties as much as they are in ruthlessly enforcing immigration laws.
If you’re an undocumented immigrant who has an upcoming court appearance, the possibility that there will be ICE agents at the courthouse waiting to arrest you is a real concern. Unfortunately, missing that court appearance really isn’t an option — not if you hope to eventually achieve a legal immigration status.
Civil rights advocates are working constantly to bring better protections for immigrants into play and ensure equal access to legal processes, but forward motion is slow. There are few guarantees. If you’re a noncitizen who is facing a criminal charge in New Jersey, it’s smart to get legal representation that understands all of the unique issues you may be facing.