An effort is underway to make sure immigrants and minorities feel welcome and safe in the Hamilton County Courthouse. This comes after reports that at least one judge was calling ICE on people who are undocumented.
Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval has convened a task force to look at best practices around the country. He wants to enact short-term solutions - like expanded translation services and teaching immigrants their rights - and study long-term protections through legislative and judicial action.
Pureval says his priority is access to the courts for everyone, including immigrants. "The vast majority of folks walking through the door here in the courthouse, they're victims, they're witnesses, or frankly they're just folks who need to get stuff done like pay a parking ticket or pay a moving violation."
Organizations and leaders participating in the task force are Municipal Court Judge Janaya Trotter Bratton, Transformation CDC, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, Women Helping Women, YWCA, Immigrant and Refugee Law Center, UFCE 75, Catholic Charities Southwest Ohio, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Executive Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center Julie Leftwich wants to make it clear undocumented immigrants aren't afforded broad protection. "We're not supporting criminals, saying everyone gets to stay in this country, because they don't. But everyone has a right to access to the courts."
And ICE doesn't have to focus on the courts, according to Attorney Emily Brown with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. "They have many methods to track people and find them ... and we would argue the courthouse is not the place to do that."
The Hamilton County judge who reportedly called ICE, Judge Robert Ruehlman, was not available for comment.
ICE tells WVXU "its officers have been provided broad at-large arrest authority by Congress but will not make civil immigration arrests inside courthouses indiscriminately."