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Helping Immigrants Access Philadelphia’s Courts Without Fear


Helping Immigrants Access Philadelphia’s Courts Without Fear

In the fall of 2018, CLS helped to form the ICE Out of Courts Coalition, a group made up legal service providers and community-based organizations in Philadelphia.  We have met repeatedly with courthouse and law enforcement leadership, advocating for our proposed policies.  

Since September, we have made progress towards our goal of making the courthouse a safer place for immigrants.

  • The Sheriff’s department has agreed to:
    • Not allow ICE arrests in the courthouse without a judicial warrant
    • Require on-duty ICE agents who enter a courthouse to present credentials, say whether they are armed, and identify where they are going
    • Inform judges if ICE agents are going to their courtrooms
    • Monitor ICE agents in the courthouse and report any violations of this policy
    • You can find the full policy here
  • The probation department has agreed to:
    • Never detain people for ICE without a judicial warrant
    • Not contact ICE if they discover a person is undocumented during a presentence report interview
    • Not ask “What is your place of birth?” after a person is taken into custody
  • The Philadelphia Bar Association has adopted a resolution supporting polices to:
    • Monitor ICE presence in and around courthouses and related offices
    • Stop court employees from asking about immigration status and giving any private information to ICE
    • Never detain individuals on behalf of ICE without a judicial warrant
    • You can find the full resolution here.

We still have work to do. Pennsylvania courts must disseminate policies so that the public and advocates understand under what circumstances ICE is permitted in courthouses statewide, what information will and will not be shared by courts and probation with ICE, and continue to ensure access to courts to all. Administrative courts need similar attention. And we all need to work together to rebuild trust in our immigrant communities.