Luciano Sandoval, a 41-year-old farmworker living in the United States without legal status, went to the Kern County Courthouse in Bakersfield last month to pay a traffic ticket. A few days later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained him as he was going to work and began deportation proceedings. Sandoval, who has six American-born daughters, said the agents told him he was targeted after paying a fine for driving without a license — a red flag for possible undocumented status.
The Sandoval case is one of a number of incidents in recent months, from California to Wisconsin, in which
But in fact, the practice raises troubling public safety issues. If immigrants without legal status can't feel safe going to a courthouse, they will be discouraged from cooperating with law enforcement generally — from sharing information about crimes with the police, from testifying in trials, from paying their fines, from seeking the legal protections to which they are entitled. The policy could set the stage for tragedy if domestic abuse victims fear deportation more than they fear their abusers, and opt not to go to court for a restraining order.