The arrest of a man in a Delano courthouse by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has raised concerns that immigrants may be discouraged from participating in the justice system, possibly threatening legal procedures.

The arrest, which occurred on the property of the Delano branch of Kern County Superior Court on Thursday, appears to be the first time in months ICE agents have conducted such an activity on courthouse grounds.

In 2013, ICE arrests in Kern County courthouses generated protests and a letter of condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Thursday’s action sparked similar concerns brought up years ago.

“The presence of ICE agents in the courthouse so undermines the administration of justice by their presence that it far outweighs the advantages that ICE agents are trying to accomplish by enforcing immigration laws,” said local attorney and co-founder of the Immigration Justice Collaborative H.A. Sala. “What this does is it entirely undermines the core function of the criminal justice system, which is to ensure fairness and do justice under law.”

He said witnesses could be discouraged from participating in trials, and victims of domestic violence could be put at risk if their immigration status makes it risky for them to appear at court out of fear of arrest.

ICE has defended the policy. The agency considers courthouses a safe place for making arrests because people are screened for weapons when they enter, according to a policy summary on its website.

A portion of ICE arrestees have committed crimes and are forced to leave the country following violent offenses, making arrests potentially dangerous.

According to its policy, ICE refrains from making arrests in certain “sensitive locations” like schools, hospitals and places of worship, but the agency does not consider a courthouse as sensitive.

“Courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails,” ICE said on its website. “Further, many of the aliens ICE is targeting have taken affirmative measures to avoid detection by ICE officers.”

Kern County, however, does cooperate with ICE in the transfer of individuals who have been arrested. In 2018, ICE arrested 374 people inside Kern County jails after being notified though a national database.

By also using courthouses to conduct arrests, the entire court system was put at risk, Sala said.

He hoped to rally local attorneys and judges against the practice in an effort to keep ICE out of courthouses.

“We just found out about this hours ago so we’re trying to address it as quickly as we possibly can,” he said Thursday afternoon.

He pointed to a decision by a federal judge in June, in which ICE was barred in Massachusetts from making arrests in courthouses.

District Attorneys for two Massachusetts counties had sued ICE, claiming courthouse arrests made it more difficult for them to prosecute cases.

U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani took their side, saying the administration of justice by the state’s DA’s suffered when litigants, witnesses and others were afraid to go to a courthouse because they feared being arrested by immigration authorities.

After the print publication of this story, ICE released the following statement to The Californian:

“Foremost, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) enforces our nation’s immigration law by identifying, arresting, and removing aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts," said Paul Prince, ICE Spokesman for San Francisco and Northern California.

“Let me be clear," he continued in his statement. "ICE has no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods, at worksites, or outside of jails and courthouses—instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community—due to limited cooperation from local and state authorities. It is also inevitable that additional collateral arrests will occur. Local and state politicians, whether they will admit it or not, play a major role establishing immigration law and how it’s enforced.”

ICE also released information about the man arrested in Delano, which is provided below:

“July 25, 2019, ICE reinstated an order of removal for Armando Garcia-Mercado, a four-time immigration law violator, after his recent arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officers in Delano, Calif.” 

“ICE deportation officers first encountered Garcia-Mercado, June 16, 2017, upon his release from Kern County Jail following his arrest on local charges. ICE officers issued Garcia-Mercado a notice to appear in immigration court before an immigration judge. 

“Aug. 15, 2017, a San Francisco immigration judge issued an order for removal to Mexico for Garcia-Mercado. He was later removed to Mexico, Aug. 18, 2017.” 

“Garcia-Mercado illegally re-entered the United States from Mexico on three other occasions—Oct. 2, 2017 and Dec. 14, 2017 at or near Lukeville, Ariz., and Dec. 14, 2017 at an unknown location.” 

“Garcia-Mercado has one prior conviction for driving under the influence, where he was sentenced to 364 days in jail.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(30) comments

REMUDA

AND . . . BTW . . . HOW 'BOUT THOSE . . . DREAMERS . . . ? >>>>> Virtually all male U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants, WHETHER DOCUMENTED OR UNDOCUMENTED, residing in the United States, who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. The law says men must register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. >>>>>> If you are required to register and you don't, you will not be eligible for federal student aid, federal job training, or a federal job. You may be prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to five years. Also, a PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY COUNSELS, AIDS, OR ABETS another to fail to comply with the Act is subject to the SAME PENALTIES. >>>>>>>>>> The Selective Service System considers the term "male" in the federal law to refer to the gender assigned at birth, so trans women are required to register and trans men are not. >>>>>>>>>> (March 1, 2019). . . late last week, a federal judge declared that exempting women from that registration requirement violates the Constitution's equal protection principles. (Defense Department officials have told Congress they support preserving the Selective Service System and welcome the inclusion of women.) >>>>>>>>>> A DD-214 is . . . PRICELESS . . . ! -------- Semper Fortis . . . !

Fightingsideofme

I really funny how law enforcement donates large amounts to liberal politicians, allows the illegal immigration to to multiply through out the state and then when an illegal kills a officer then they are up in arms about losing one of there brothers ! You cant have it both ways, how many Americans moved away from Delano and other California communities because the illegal population squeezed them out ? A nice American community may not need as many police depending to information from illegals if they weren't living their in the first place and just maybe Americans wouldn't have to live in a police state, this is the freedom the typical American lost living in small town California.

Copper

You do realize that actual citizens commit more crimes than illegal aliens. Stop spreading false information.

CTurk3

Copper, you are just like every other Liberal, if you tell a lie often enough then in your mind it becomes the truth, regardless of the facts. The following are the facts: "while illegal aliens are roughly 3.5% of America’s population, U.S. Sentencing Commission data reflects that, out of 74,911 federal sentencing cases, illegal aliens committed 17% of drug trafficking, 20% of kidnapping/hostage taking, 12% of money laundering, 12% of murders, and a whopping 74% of drug possession felonies! If this federal data is any indicator, illegal aliens are far more likely to commit violent and dangerous crimes than the average American or lawful immigrant"!

Vico17

Boom. Thank you CTurk3. Anyone else, please visit USSC.gov and get the facts. Don't let liberals spread disinformation.

Steelerman

@CTurk3 Nice stats. You might want to read the March 4, 2019 Cato Institute study by Alex Nowrasteh on comparing crimes committed by native born and non-native born people. Here are some of the results, which confirm other research done in this area. The focus was on Texas because it is more serious about enforcing laws against illegal immigrant criminals than other states and it keeps track of immigration statuses of convicted criminals and the crimes that they committed. --"All immigrants have a lower criminal incarceration rate and there are lower crime rates in the neighborhoods where they live." --"Illegal immigrant conviction rates are about half those of native-born Americans – without any controls for age, education, ethnicity, or any other characteristic. The illegal immigrant conviction rates for homicide, larceny, and sex crimes are also below those of native-born Americans. The criminal conviction rates for legal immigrants are the lowest of all." In a 2018 study mentioned in the Cato Institute study is called "Does Undocumented Immigration Increase Violent Crime? by Michael Light and Ty Miller and they concluded "...that a higher illegal immigrant population does not increase violent crime rates." In addition, Light and Miller teamed up with Purdue sociologist Bryan C. Kelly to look at how higher illegal immigrant populations affected drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests. They found "large and significantly associated reductions in drug arrests, drug overdose deaths, and DUI arrests with no significant relationship between increased illegal immigration and DUI deaths." I realize these facts from a Libertarian organization will not prevent you from trying to justify your ethnonationalist and xenophobic views. I strongly suspect you will dismiss them summarily and cling angrily and defensively to your misleading stats and misinformed beliefs about immigration.

Veritas

2 Steeler Nice stats. Mr. Nowrasteh is a self professed Liberal and thinks that the USA should allow anyone into this country, regardless of their criminal history. His research is flawed and seldom recognized as credible, even by is own liberal peers. As for Light and Miller, they have also been discredited by many of their liberal peers. I get the feeling now, after several of your comments within this publication, that you are part of the ACLU, or most likely from SNAP. Bottom line, no good human being in this country would say no to another human being from another country asking to become a citizen of the USA. Those that do not want to become a citizen of our country should not be allowed to stay here without a justifiable reason. Most countries on this planet are a lot less amenable than we are now. I fail to see why you support people that try to come into our country illegally, but fail to recognize the plight of our homeless citizens. Put your efforts towards our homeless citizens before those that are not US citizens. Then you will get people to support your passion.

Fightingsideofme

There are more legal citizens in the USA than illegals living here so you need to correlate the numbers by individual communities and not in general, Thank You for responding Sir.

Copper

Still doesn’t change the fact that more citizens are committing violent crimes than illegals. And don’t get me started about school shootings and other public shootings which are majority Caucasian males. Truth is white nationalist are the biggest threat to our nation and those who support them such as President Chump and his cronies.

Steelerman

@Veritas It's you again. Haha. I'm glad you didn't hit me any well-practiced clichés like "stay in your own lane" or "you are not in my league or some other ramblings of a child. I would not know what to do. Although I am quite certain you are aware of it, you did exactly I believed CTurk 3 would do... dismiss evidence out of hand and without offering any evidence in your rebuttal of course, except your pathetic attempt to appear as if you know what you are talking about by babbling something about the authors of the studies are somehow not credible academicians. You summarily dismissed my sources because it obviously contradicted your predetermined conclusions and beliefs. Again, you offer no evidence except verbal diarrhea...just like a Fox news host. I also love how your conspiratorial mind goes to the ACLU or SNAP, two organizations the right has vilified, and tried to associate me with those organizations in an transparent attempt to discredit me. I'm very familiar with rhetorical tricks, Veritas. Also, if this article was about homelessness, I would address it. How about this for a suggestion to help end homelessness right here in Bakersfield? Have the city and private developers combine their efforts to build low-income housing on every single golf course in the county. Oh, I forgot, the dreaded NIMBY problem rears its ugly head.

Airdog44

ICE is part of our Justice system when it comes to crimes committed by illegal aliens. Our liberal justice system turns a blind eye to these illegal aliens. I support ICE and I encourage them to carry on! Those who twist the truth to fit their beliefs rather than following law should not be practicing law or in law enforcement!

Lamonster

Much has been said about how the presence of ICE agents in the courthouse undermines the administration of justice. To the contrary, a justice system that relies on turning a blind eye to lawbreaking in order to administer justice is unjust at its core and needs to be reformed.

Inconvenient Truth

When did fugitives being in fear of the law become a BAD thing?

JimmyDude

Boom! Well said.

Copper

Illegal aliens are not fugitives because if they have not been formally charged with a crime.

Donhughes93307

Let them do their job and let the legal system sort it out. If they are here illegally then they must be removed immediately. If people want to come to this country do it legally it’s that simple. People need to stop whining about this issue. And definitely stop blaming trump for this issue this was set in motion over 20 years ago. Nobody was getting the job done, they swore to protect our country and didn’t. Trump is doing his job so move on children.

Bakersfieldbond

Infantilizing people with opposing viewpoints is a cheap move and shows weakness on your part. Your comment shows that you obviously know nothing of the immigration process. It is expensive, complex, and can take years and even decades to complete. For example, as of this month, it takes at least 22 years for people from Mexico to get a green card if they’re the married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen. Mexico is among a handful of countries with a backlog of immigration cases of all types. When faced with extreme poverty and being unable to support one's family by waiting in Mexico for 20+ years or crossing the border and finding work (easy enough considering the ag industry here, headed by your grower neighbors, will hire them), I would opt for the risk and cross.

whiterose73

GaryJohns, you should probably rephrase that - if you're white, you have no reason to fear because ICE is detaining American citizens. They just happen to be brown American citizens.

Ed

Maybe those arrested have broken the law. Being here illegally, commiting crimes against the people things like that ?? Let law enforcement do the job we pay them to do. Sorry if we arrested your gardener....

tgrJams

If it were only undocumented people they were arresting, it might be that simple. But they are arresting people with legal valid passports, naturalized citizens and even US born and raised citizens! This is not the America I grew up in - I can’t remember a more disgusting misuse of power like this ever before. His authoritarian drive is beginning to take action. it shows how much trump love and admires Putin and Russia - he’s turning America into a communist status check point state!

Ed

Law enforcement arrest people everyday that commit offfences against the people, the state and the government if you don’t like it, move

Vico17

For the last time: ideologically, Russia, the Democrats and the Democratic Socialists align close to each other on the Left. You are spreading lies and propaganda like a good Commie comrade. You are spreading disinformation.

Copper

Russia has Trump in their pocket by owning his pocket.

Vico17

Poor Copper. Tin foil Antifa.

bakodon

Do you have any proof of this? Doubtful...just another Kool Aid drinker making it up as you go...Hahahahahahaahah!!!!

Vico17

Wow. bakodon. Are you serious? If you ever took a Political Ed 101 class you know how the spectrum of ideologies work from left to right and who believes what. But maybe you never paid attention. I am not trying to embarrass you or anything. Just read a little. Educate yourself.

GaryJohns

It's pretty simple. If you're here legally, you have no reason to fear...

Bakersfieldbond

Except they are basically going after anyone who "fits the description" (brown skin, Hispanoc name, etc.). Francisco Galicia, a US citizen, was detained for 23 days, during which time he slept on concrete in a cell with 60 other men, was mistreated by agents, and came to lose 26 pounds due to malnnourishment. The agents tried to get him to sign deportation papers and voluntarily leave the country OF HIS BIRTH. So, no. Even if you are here "legally," you can end up in detention with threat of deportation.

Vico17

More disinformation. One kid gets caught in the chaos because "brown skin, Hispanoc name, etc." i.e. overwhelmed the system with millions of illegal crossings. And we are now racist. Where have we heard this before? Ask yourself first why is the system overwhelmed and pushed to the brink. Because of millions of illegal crossings. You point to one anecdotal event. You and I then agree we should send $5 billion to help fix the problem, prevent millions of illegal crossings, which in turn will prevent a second case like Mr Galicia's. Right? Or have Mexican, Central American, Venezuelan citizens stop voting for corrupt Democrat Socialists whom typically drain the national resources to enrich themselves. Look at the root cause.

dabonem

Aww boo hoo we better just open the borders then. It’s the only solution since it’s impossible for poor little Fransisco to carry around his ID.

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