Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested a man suspected of being in the U.S. illegally on Friday at the Travis County Courthouse, a judge tells KVUE and Austin American-Statesman’s Tony Plohetski.
Defense attorney Daniel Betts tells KVUE's partners at the Austin American-Statesman that his client - Juan Coronilla-Guerrero - was detained after a routine court appearance for two misdemeanor charges, assault and possession of marijuana. He added his client was arrested in an elevator shortly after a pre-trial conference at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center.
This appears to be the first time ICE officials have gone to the courthouse to arrest someone.
The Travis County Sheriff's Office confirmed ICE agents were at the courthouse serving a warrant, and the Statesman has learned that Coronilla-Guerrero had been released from jail after Sheriff Sally Hernandez's new policy on ICE detainers.
Coronilla-Guerrero was previously deported in 2008, according to the Statesman.
“It struck me as extraordinary,” Betts told the Statesman. He added his client was in court to resolve the misdemeanor charges so he would not run into problems with immigration.
“I told my client a week and a half ago that I didn’t think ICE would be at the courts, but we see how that turned out,” Betts said.
"We need agreement from ICE that administration of criminal justice is presumed to be a higher purpose than administration of immigration justice," said Judge Sarah Eckhardt.
Both civil and criminal judges plan to meet as early as Monday to discuss what to do if ICE shows up in the courthouse. One judge wrote in an email Friday that it is expected to happen again.
Immigration and Custom Enforcement issued the following statement regarding Friday's arrest:
“Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, from Mexico, March 3 on a federal criminal arrest warrant. The warrant was issued based on a criminal complaint charging him with re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, if convicted. Guerrero-Coronilla is scheduled to be in court March 6. No further details are releasable at this time.”
Council Member Greg Casar released the following statement:
"Today, ICE officials were in the courthouse lobby conducting enforcement activities. Their presence in a courthouse harms our overall public safety. This will have a chilling effect on our judicial branch of government’s ability to operate effectively. Because of actions like this, people will fear going to court dates as victims, witnesses, or defendants. When families live in fear, we all lose."
Council Member Delia Garza released the following statement:
"As a former Assistant Attorney General who worked in the Child Support Division, I know our working families already face anxiety when needing to navigate the justice system. ICE's presence in our courthouses will harm any trust our immigrant families place in the court system. If families are fearful of attending any required court appearances, they could face dire consequences like losing custody of their children or obtaining a restraining order from an abusive spouse."