ICE arrests at courthouses policy guidance

By Atty. Crispin Caday Lozano

The American Immigration Council provide us a report of ICE policy guidance in courthouses.  After a significant increase in arrests outside of courthouses in 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has finally released new guidance that officially gives its agents permission to conduct civil immigration enforcement at courthouses.

While this guidance is new, the practice is not. ICE’s presence and arrests at courthouses have prompted public outcry from judges, public officials and community members, who point to evidence that the practice generates fear and hurts public safety. Local law enforcement agencies experienced concerning drops in crime reporting after one such courthouse arrest by ICE.

The lack of guidance regarding courts has generated frustration and confusion, since courthouses are not included in ICE’s sensitive locations memo instructing agents to generally avoid arrests in and outside of places like schools, churches, and hospitals. The new directive, however, does provide clearer parameters for courthouse actions.

The directive, dated January 10 but only made public last week, states that ICE agents and officials have the authority to conduct immigration enforcement inside federal, state, and local courthouses against “specific, targeted” individuals when the agency has information suggesting the person is currently located at the courthouse.

The guidance describes these enforcement actions as the apprehension, arrest, interview, or search of targeted individuals, including those in the country identified as:

  1. gang members;
  2. national security or public safety threats;
  3. having orders of removal; or
  4. having “re-entered the country illegally after being removed.”

With immigration arrests in the interior increasing under the Trump administration, legal service providers and immigrant rights advocates have cited more ICE activity at courthouses, including arrests of U.S. citizens and individuals testifying as witnesses—people who should not be targeted based on these general guidelines ICE has now made public.

For example, the guidance stipulates that ICE will generally not go after non-targeted individuals encountered at the courthouse—such as family members, friends, or someone serving as a witness. Yet these “collateral arrests” are not prohibited. Rather, ICE agents could make such an arrest under “special circumstances, such as where the individual poses a threat to public safety or interferes with ICE’s enforcement actions.”

In addition, it directs ICE agents, whenever possible, to “conduct enforcement actions discreetly to minimize their impact on court proceedings.” Further, these actions should generally avoid “areas within courthouses that are dedicated to non-criminal (e.g., family court, small claims court) proceedings.”

In other words, federal immigration enforcement may take place in and around courthouses and agents and officials are instructed, generally, to keep their actions focused on specific individuals away from the public.

Yet, the directive also leaves much to the discretion of ICE agents and officials, requiring no additional documentation or approval beyond an agent’s Field Office Director or Special Agent in Charge.

While this directive from ICE is an important development to better clarify and guide federal immigration enforcement at courthouses, the real test will be in how federal agents use the directive—and tracking the impact on our communities and their trust in local institutions.

This article is for general information only and is not a legal advice.


  1. For the week ending February 9, 2018, we received approvals of one I-485, one N-400, one I-90 and one I-751.
  2. On January 12, 2018, we received an approval of immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate Manila for an alien who applied for I-601-A as one who entered as a seaman.
  3. On January 10, 2018, we received an approval form USCIS of a self petition for abused spouse based on same sex marriage.
  4. On January 3, 2018, we received an approval from the Immigration Court for a waiver of misrepresentation for a client who was charged with misrepresentation in marriage;
  5. On December 15, 2017, we received an approval from USCIS for an adjustment of status for same sex marriage for an applicant who entered without inspection but has Sec. 245 (i).
  6. On November 16, 2017, we received an approval from Immigration Court for a waiver of misrepresentation for entering as single daughter of U.S. citizen but actually married.
  7. On October 25, 2017, we received an approval of I-485 adjustment of status for our client who has a DUI but has proof that he has cleared his record.
  8. On October 20, 2017, we received an approval of naturalization for a client who was granted a waiver of misrepresentation in Immigration Court.
  9. On October 16, 2017, we received from USCIS an approval for an adjustment of status for same sex marriage, after two scheduled interviews.
  10. On October 9, 2017, we received an approval from USCIS for adjustment of   status for a client who entered as a seaman but has Sec. 245 (i) eligibility.
  11. On October 2, 2017, we received an approval of adjustment of status from USCIS for a client who entered without inspection but has Sec. 245(i).
  12. For the week ending September 15, 2017, we received three Immigrant Visa   Approvals in U.S. Embassy Manila for three applicants who entered as seaman  under the Provisional Waiver Program.

If you have immigration problems the Law Offices of Crispin C. Lozano can help you find a solution before your problem gets worse which could lead to deportation and family separation.

Crispin Caday Lozano, Esq. is an active member of the State Bar of California, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association.  He specializes in immigration law and personal injury.  For free consultation email or call ( / 1-877-456-9266)

Toll Free 1-877-4LOZANO for free consultation or Schedule an Appointment