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Federal judge grants Massachusetts officials who sued ICE over courthouse arrests time to review Biden administration guidance

An unidentified Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officer. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Following Biden administration memo limiting courthouse arrests, Massachusetts district attorneys and civil rights lawyers get more time to review the change and its impact on their lawsuit challenging Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s practice of making civil immigration arrests at or near courthouses.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani approved a request by the attorneys representing the plaintiffs — District Attorney Marian Ryan, District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Lawyers for Civil Rights and the Committee for Public Counsel Services — and the federal government to postpone the deadline for their next status report from May 10 to Aug. 3.

“The parties request additional time to determine the effect of the new interim guidance on this case and how the parties wish to proceed in this litigation,” the parties wrote in their proposed order. “In particular, it will be difficult for the parties to comprehensively evaluate the rescission and replacement of the prior directive and its effect on the litigation in time to provide a complete status report by May 10.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on April 27 issued a memo directing ICE and Customs and Border Protection to limit when they can arrest people on civil immigration violations at or near courthouses.

Federal agents can still make arrests on immigration matters if it’s due to a national security matter, an imminent risk of death, violence or physical harm, a pursuit of someone who poses a public safety threat or an imminent risk that criminal evidence will be destroyed.

In some cases, federal agents can still detain immigrants against public safety threats who aren’t in an active pursuit “where necessary and with approval,” the Department of Homeland Security wrote in a news release.

At the time, the district attorneys, LCR and CPCS said in a joint statement they needed to review the policies before making any decisions about the lawsuit.

“It is our hope that this change will begin reversing the culture of fear that has pervaded our courthouses in recent years,” the group said.

The coalition of organizations first filed a lawsuit challenging courthouse arrests in April 2019, following a rise of courthouse arrests under then-President Donald Trump. LCR had counted more than 100 courthouse arrests across Massachusetts over the prior year.

Four months later, Talwani granted a preliminary injunction barring ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Boston from arresting immigrants on civil violations around Massachusetts courthouses. ICE quickly filed an appeal.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals in September vacated the preliminary injunction granted by Talwani, sending the matter back to Talwani for further review.

Under the current schedule approved by Talwani, the lawsuit would move forward with discovery due by Jan. 3.

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