Courthouses as Sanctuaries?

By Dan Cadman on April 11, 2017

There are over 300 jurisdictions today that obstruct cooperation with federal immigration efforts, by enacting laws or policies prohibiting police agencies from honoring immigration detainers or providing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with the information needed to identify and apprehend alien criminals.

One of those sanctuaries is Multnomah County, Ore., in which an activist open-borders mentality apparently percolates through all three branches of government.

The county sheriff was recently interviewed after his office released a convicted sex offender rather than tender the alien to ICE on the detainer it had filed — a routine occurrence in that sheriff's office. The sheriff defended his decision by claiming the office couldn't afford to expend resources "toward immigration enforcement". I'm hard pressed to figure out exactly what resources are needed to simply hand an alien criminal over to ICE, or how the community's safety is better served by that choice.

But the sheriff's actions pale in comparison to those of Multnomah County judge Monica Herranz, who is "under internal investigation" after it's alleged that she helped an illegal alien escape from her courtroom rather than end up in the hands of waiting ICE agents. She apparently escorted him through back corridors available only to court employees and on to freedom. This happened in late February. ICE agents brought it to the attention of the U.S. Attorney's Office, whose chief, Billy Williams, an Obama administration appointee, apparently then simply took the complaint back to the Multnomah County judiciary for said "internal investigation" rather than do his job by convening a grand jury to begin the process of indicting and prosecuting Judge Herranz for harboring and shielding from detection an alien illegally in the United States — a federal felony (see 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii)).

It's been more than a month now and there is little reason to think that the matter is being handled in any way other than sweeping it under the rug. I'm presuming that Williams was one of those Obama holdovers whose resignation was recently requested by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (I hope so.) Perhaps it's time for someone under Sessions' leadership at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to revisit the patently obvious shuffling-off of this outrageous and prosecutable offense, and to direct the U.S. Attorney's Office to do its job.

But following on the heels of this judge's disgraceful and illegal conduct — assuming it to be true, and all indications are that it is — how has the judiciary generally reacted?

Rather than express outrage at the conduct, or speak in a measured way about the proper role of the judiciary, California's chief justice weighed in to blast renewed federal immigration enforcement efforts under the new administration, and called ICE presence at courthouses an assault against the rule of law.

Washington State's chief justice also got involved and wrote to John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to urge him to direct ICE agents to stay away from courthouses by declaring them to be "sensitive locations".

Since then, both DOJ and DHS have rejected the suggestion that courthouses should be put off limits, and they're right to have done so. Think about the whole thing for a moment: officers of the law being told that courthouses, those bastions of the law, are out of bounds? How logical is that?

At any rate, judges need to accept the reality that ICE agents are at those courthouses because it is one of the few avenues available to them to take alien criminals into custody when it becomes evident that the police or sheriff's office refuse to cooperate. It would be in everyone's best interest that custody transfers take place in a secure location like a county jail — but when that opportunity is by denied to them by foolish and misplaced sanctuary policies, ICE agents go where they must to do their jobs.

Of course, following the declination of DHS and DOJ to pursue such a course, along comes a member of Congress to file a bill attempting to force the matter through enactment of a law. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, from Oregon (no surprise), has joined with several other Democratic colleagues to introduce the "Protecting Sensitive Locations Act".

This is typical. If Democrats had their way, they would simply legislate away the ability of ICE agents to do their jobs by making the "sensitive locations" list so large and cumbersome that nothing would be left.

It's already been made hard enough in the past eight years through a horrendous admixture of former White House policy, and activist judicial decisions:

Worksites? Nope, pretty much off the table. Why actually do enforcement operations to remove aliens working illegally at various employer sites? Just make the pretense through occasional paperwork audits.

Homes? Heaven forbid! What kind of country is this, you jackbooted minions of the law?

Colleges or universities? How dare you intrude on this sacred institution of learning? Our students need their safe spaces.

Jails, prisons, sheriff's offices, or police booking stations? Absolutely not. How dare you try to "commandeer" our resources by asking for information or trying to take custody of an alien on our premises?

You get the idea.

But to go back to the matter of the judiciary: When asked during his confirmation hearings, newly invested Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was asked about tweets from the president lambasting the judiciary, which he dutifully lamented in his gentlemanly way, saying among other things, "I find that disheartening and I find that demoralizing."

My own take is that the current atmosphere of disrespect for the judiciary — by the public as well as the president — is in large measure a self-inflicted wound.

The question in many minds is: Why, exactly, do we support an institution, at least at the federal level, in which individuals are given lifetime sinecures for jobs in which they themselves are the only ones who hold the power to decide the limit of their power? This leads ultimately to an unbridled lack of restraint and the inevitable taint of politicization into the third branch of government, the only one of the three intended specifically to avoid that taint.

Perhaps it is time we in America undertook a reformation to see them systemically defrocked of such unlimited lifetime power. After all, the only members of the federal judiciary for whom this appears to be a constitutional requirement (and the language even there is not straightforward) are members of the Supreme Court. Legislative change would suffice for all of the rest.

I am not the first to make such a suggestion, nor to observe that lifetime appointments have not served to preclude politicization of the judiciary. If judges have come to see themselves as demigods, it is our own fault, for we have allowed them to invest themselves with those qualities. A judge who had to consider his future might be more prudent in the present.