A deportation raid. Courtesy ICE

San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott joined 11 other California prosecutors in urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to exclude California courthouses from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests.

A letter sent Tuesday urges Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to include courthouses among the sensitive sites where immigration enforcement actions are discouraged. The California prosecutors argue the arrests jeopardize law enforcement’s ability to prosecute criminals and protect the public.

 “ICE courthouse arrests make all Californians less safe,” the letter states. “These practices deter residents concerned about their immigration status from appearing in court — including as crime victims and witnesses — jeopardizing effective prosecution of criminals who may then re-offend.  Courthouse enforcement by ICE also risks confrontations that could endanger members of the public at courthouses throughout our state.”

The letter was signed by six city attorneys and six district attorneys, among them Elliott and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

“Courthouse arrests will deny justice to the most vulnerable members of our society — victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault,” Elliott said. “We are less safe when victims and witnesses are discouraged from helping our police and prosecutors put criminals behind bars.”

In March, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the Justice Department that courthouse immigration sweeps compromise core values of fairness and undermine her state judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.