Updated: A Chicago-area man was released Thursday from immigration detention after his family and a local attorney argued that he was arrested in violation of local law, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times have reported.
Christian Gomez Garcia, 29, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a Skokie, Illinois, courthouse Monday after a hearing on a traffic ticket. His attorney said the arrest violated the Cook County “sanctuary” ordinance, which forbids county officials from working with federal immigration agents to detain someone, unless the agents have a warrant, the Sun-Times reported. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a state law similar to the county ordinance in August, the Sun-Times reported at the time.
Juan Soliz, a lawyer for Gomez said that courthouse arrests reduce immigrants’ access to the courts, and therefore to justice. “People that need the services are going to refrain from use of these services because they’re afraid of ICE being present,” he said to the Sun-Times.
Gomez was brought to the United States by his mother from Mexico as a young child (the newspapers differ on what age), and he had previously had a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His DACA status expired, however, when his application for renewal was filled out incorrectly, according to the Tribune. Gomez’s lawyer filled out a new application Tuesday, the Sun-Times reported.
Soliz had sent a letter Tuesday to ICE’s Chicago Field Director, Ricardo Wong, calling for Gomez’s release and asking for a meeting. A statement from ICE late Wednesday said: “After further review of his case circumstances, Mr. Gomez Garcia is scheduled to be released on Feb. 1.” The agency did not elaborate.
Soliz told the Tribune he thinks that ICE recognized “they shouldn’t have picked him up in the first place and they’re compelled to release him” because Gomez is still eligible for DACA renewal.
Gomez’s mother, Luz Maria Garcia, says he’s studying for real estate credentials, helps support her financially and has no criminal record. The Tribune’s search of court records also found no criminal record.
ICE arrests in courthouses are a growing issue under the Trump administration, which has stepped up arrests of immigrants who are in the country without authorization but have not been convicted of any crime. Past ICE statements have said the practice is safer for its agents because people are screened for weapons before they can enter most courthouses; advocates for immigrants say it discourages them from handling legal matters. The ABA’s House of Delegates condemned the practice by approving Resolution 10C at August’s ABA Annual Meeting.
About 100 public defenders in New York City staged a protest in late November, after ICE arrested a defendant in a domestic violence case and physically restrained his attorney from taking photos of the incident. About a year ago, ICE arrested a woman in El Paso when she went to a courthouse to obtain a domestic violence protective order. California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, wrote a formal letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last March, arguing that the practice could erode trust in the state court system. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made similar comments after a judge in that state was accused of helping an immigrant evade ICE.
Updated at 6:42 p.m. to report that Gomez had been released.