State Democrats are asking officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to launch an investigation over what they say is racial profiling at courthouses across the state, including the Racine County Courthouse.

In a letter to John Sandweg, acting director of ICE, from Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, and Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, Democrats say ICE agents are casing courthouses for illegal immigrants by checking for warrants when they make their court appearances.

“Members of our community should be able to enter our courthouses without being racially profiled,” said Mason in a written statement. “These practices described by constituents are deeply disturbing and must be halted immediately.”

If ICE finds a warrant, they take that person into custody before they can see their local case through, and that’s the problem, according to a story in The Journal Times. Defendants are sometimes deported before they get their local day in court, which presumes guilt and prevents them from being exonerated.

“If you make the assumption the guy was guilty, that guy lucked out. He was deported. He doesn’t get the punishment he normally would do,” immigration lawyer Jose Cabranes is quoted as saying. “If they did it, then they should be punished. If they didn’t do it, then ICE is preventing them from proving their innocence.”

ICE, though, has issued statements before defending the agency’s actions and denying any racial profiling.

The story in the newspaper reads, “(ICE focuses) on sensible, effective immigration enforcement efforts that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals, those who have been previously removed from the United States and those who have outstanding deportation orders.”

In the letter, Mason and Zamirripa say ICE agents use so-called “Spanish Days” at state courthouses to identify illegal immigrants, and those actions are negatively impacting local court officials from appropriately adjudicating cases. Not only are people avoiding paying traffic tickets and other municipal citations, but crime victims are also being discouraged from coming forward.

“… these practices undermine the integrity of our court system if Wisconsin residents worry that they will be racially profiled when they come to court to adjudicate traffic, municipal and family matters,” the letter reads. “ICE’s actions have also affected victims of crime and reduced their willingness to utilize court services or contact law enforcement, consequences that negatively impact public safety for the entire community.”

The letter concludes, “We take these allegations very seriously and ask that you investigate these practices and immediately halt these actions in Wisconsin courthouses.”

Mason, Zamirripa and 20 of their Assembly colleagues signed the letter.

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