Marian Ryan and Rachael Rollins — the district attorneys of Middlesex and Suffolk counties, respectively — filed a lawsuit against ICE on Monday, April 29, hoping to put an end to the agency’s tactic of arresting individuals in the vicinity of Massachusetts courthouses. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the country, setting up a new frontline in states’ battles against harsh federal immigration law and the overreach of the Department of Homeland Security.
The district attorneys and their allies at Goodwin Procter and Lawyers for Civil Rights are reacting to a sharp influx of arrests made by ICE agents outside of state courthouses since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency. The legal team says that these actions have led to a severe chilling effect not only in Massachusetts but nationally, steering immigrants away from practicing their civil right of appearing in court for fear of being taken and deported. According to District Attorney Ryan, the arrests have hindered the progress of criminal cases.
“These are real results, and you’ll hear about some of these examples,” Ryan said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. “The result of this fear, that keeps people from exercising their right to come to court, is that victims suffer in silence, people continue to be abused in their homes. Witnesses, who may have seen something happen to any one of us or a member of our families, randomly been in a place where they saw something, are forced to choose between the protection of themselves and their family and their civic duty to come forward. Offenders often choose not to take the risk and do not come to court to have their case resolved.”
On top of violating one’s constitutional right of access to courts, the lawsuit also argues that ICE is acting outside of congressional authorization and that they are violating state sovereignty.
District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office reinforced this stance, saying that ICE’s actions have caused harm not only in legal proceedings, but in the fabric of public life.
“Entire communities now view the Massachusetts courts as places at which they simply cannot appear,” the DA’s office stated in a press release. “ICE’s policy has effectively closed the courthouse door to immigrants and made us all unsafe in the process.”
This is the most recent in District Attorney Rollins’ pushes for more progressive legal reforms since her election last year. In a policy memo released in March, Rollins instructed her employees to notify her whenever ICE agents are spotted in the vicinity of a state courthouse.