California chief justice tells Trump administration to stop targeting immigrants at trial courts

By April Brown | Apr 10, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye recently accused federal immigration courts of stalking undocumented immigrants at trial courts, and other judges are following suit.

Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, fired off a letter to the Trump administration when she discovered that immigration agents were allegedly operating inside court houses, plainly saying, “Knock it off.”

Now, the California chief justice says that Barbara Madsen, Washington chief justice, has also asked the federal government to stop enforcing immigration laws inside court houses, and she says that courts across the nation are starting to take notice.

“I know that the New Mexico superior court is hearing many issues…and they're determining what they can and want to do in this situation," Cantil-Sakauye told the California Report. "I read about it in Colorado. I've read about it in Texas, and I know that the chiefs are thinking about this.” 

While judges typically stay out of politics, Cantil-Sakauye is concerned that the recent federal immigration crackdown at court houses will deter crime victims and witnesses from attending important hearings and cases. She also believes that President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments against federal judges compound the issue, undermining the public's faith in the justice system.

“I think it is very threatening to the third branch of government," Cantil-Sakauye told the California Report. "It's an indication of not treating the three branches as co-equal, and it's troubling for all of us to hear that because it is an attack on the public confidence and trust in the judicial branches' rulings."

Cantil-Sakauye spoke out against federal actions on immigration and warned that the rule of state law is under threat during her annual State of the Judiciary address on Monday. Without directly naming the Trump administration, she criticized the federal government for looking at courthouses as a source for obtaining immigrants for custody.

“When we hear of immigration arrests and the fear of immigration arrests in our state courthouses, I am concerned that that kind of information trickles down into the community, the schools, the churches," Cantil-Sakauye said during the address. "The families and people will no longer come to court to protect themselves or cooperate or bear witness. I am afraid that will be the end of justice and communities will be less safe and victimization will continue.”

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