ICE arrests at Colorado courthouses leave immigrants fearful
Bill would stop agents from impeding criminal justice system, backers say
By Saja Hindi l originally published on denverpost.com on January 20, 2020
[photo caption: Paulina Martinez, 32, center, comforts her daughter Maia, 2, right, sitting next to Maia’s sister Camila, 5, at their home in Englewood on Thursday, Jan. 16. Martinez was arrested by undercover ICE agents in Littleton when in court for a municipal matter and is now facing deportation proceedings. Photo by Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post]
When Paulina Martinez walked out of the Littleton Municipal Courthouse in January 2018, she spotted a white, unmarked van parked outside. Two men in plain clothes were sitting in it.
She tried to ignore it, said goodbye to her attorney, and she and her partner — both undocumented immigrants — began walking to their car. Suddenly, the men jumped out of the van and began questioning the couple. They were ICE agents. Martinez threw her purse to her partner and asked him to go find their attorney.
The 32-year-old, who has lived in Colorado most of her life, was a wreck. She had a 4-month-old baby and a toddler at home. When her partner and attorney ran back toward her, the ICE agents had already detained Martinez and were getting her inside the van.
Martinez’s nightmare is one that immigration attorneys estimate affects hundreds of people across Colorado each year. Immigrant advocates and even some district attorneys say the courthouse arrests impede the criminal justice system. Colorado Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, has introduced a bill to prohibit civil arrests from taking place in courthouses or for people who are on their way to courthouses, similar to laws in other states.
But ICE officials contend it’s the only way to detain undocumented immigrants when local and state jurisdictions don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.