Karla Gonzales García
Editor’s Note: Statement by Karla Gonzales García, Program and Policy Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) on the House hearing for Senate Bill 83, which protects an individual from civil arrest while the person is present at a courthouse, on its environs, while going to, attending, or coming from a court proceeding:
People need to feel that they can seek justice and remedy in a courthouse without fear that a traffic ticket or unpaid fine could result in arrest and, for an undocumented immigrant, the threat of deportation. This is not a hyperbole. It is happening and it is horrifying. María, a 39-year-old mother from Colombia called the police and went to a courthouse to prosecute her abusive fiancé. Instead of having the system stand with her as a survivor of domestic violence, she and her son were taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. María cried for her other child who was in daycare.
We have seen an unprecedented increase in ICE arrests in places like hospitals, schools, and courthouses. This makes it difficult for our courts to run the way they’re supposed to; it is difficult for undocumented people to be able to seek any justice or protection. The Immigrant Defense Project documented a 1200% increase in ICE courthouse operations from 2016 to 2017. This has made immigrants and their families afraid to go to court.
When immigrants can’t seek justice out of fear of deportation, the system is irreparably broken. The ability to defend yourself or to protect your family is actively and cruelly being denied.
We need to really think about what this means. It means family members cannot go to court and seek child support to care for their children or seek any action against an abusive landlord. ICE has also taken immigrants from courts when they are trying to defend themselves against criminal charges. People would like to think it can’t happen here, but even in places where the local law enforcement or court officers are supportive of immigrant rights, federal immigration enforcement can undermine local policies.
When immigrants can’t seek justice out of fear of deportation, the system is irreparably broken. The ability to defend yourself or to protect your family is actively and cruelly being denied. We can do better than scare people away from seeking justice and safety they and their families deserve. We are thrilled that this bill passed the Senate, but now we call upon our House members to do the same. We urge the House to take action to advance this important legislation.
Karla Gonzales García is the Program and Policy Director of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.(COLOR).
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