- Judge Robert Ruehlman says he calls ICE on defendants in his courtroom if they speak Spanish.
- “It’s not racial profiling,” Ruehlman said.
- The phenomenon of ICE agents appearing at courthouses has been on the rise nationally.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
A judge in Cincinnati, Ohio, says he regularly calls Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Spanish speaking people in his courtroom.
“It’s not racial profiling,” Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman told the ABC News affiliate WCPO-TV. “It’s just common sense,” he said, adding that he calls ICE up to 20 times a year.
“They speak Spanish, they’re charged with carrying a lot of drugs, and they’re not from here,” he said of his apparent criteria for reporting defendants to ICE.
“I give them the name and birthdate and where they’re from. They run them. They say, ‘Yeah.’ Then they go to the jail and they put a holder on them,” meaning the detainee is not afforded bail before their trial.
Ruehlman’s practices are highly problematic, according to David Carey, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
“We are extremely concerned and troubled by the reports of Judge Ruehlman contacting ICE on a frequent basis,” Carey told Insider. “Decisions impacting people’s liberty should never be made on a ‘hunch.'”
The report on the Hamilton County judge’s statements emerged less than two weeks after a WCPO-TV report found that ICE agents were walking into the Hamilton County Courthouse unannounced, and without alerting the local sheriff, to look for undocumented individuals.
ICE operatives have been entering the courthouse “every couple of months,” according to Niro Wijesooriya, a bailiff at the courthouse.
“Usually, one or two agents show up, and come in and introduce themselves to me and say they’re looking for a particular defendant that’s on the docket, and that they will be outside the courtroom,” Wijesooriya said, adding that the agents wear plain clothes.
The phenomenon of ICE agents appearing at courthouses has been on the rise nationally. Attempted and actual ICE arrests at New York state courthouses increased 1,700% from January 2017 to December 2018. In 2018, such incidents rose by more than one-quarter compared to 2017 data.
Uniformed and plain-clothes ICE agents have been spotted near or inside courthouses in Texas, California, Arizona and Colorado. In April 2019, the New York state court system issued a directive barring ICE agents from making arrests in its courthouses without a judicial warrant.
A group of former judges has also sought to prevent ICE from making arrests at courthouses.
“Judges simply cannot do their jobs – and our justice system cannot function effectively – if victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members do not feel secure in accessing the courthouse,” said a 2018 letter to then-Acting Director of ICE Ronald Vitiello from dozens of former state and federal judges.
“ICE’s reliance on immigration arrests in courthouses instills fear in clients and deters them from seeking justice in a court building,” the letter continued.
Ruehlman had previously drawn ire from The Cincinnati Enquirer over his treatment of alleged rape victims in one case, and bias in the case of a former attorney in another. A 2016 opinion column from the paper’s editors urged the judge to retire, and noted that two higher courts had also taken issue with some of his in-court behaviour.
- Read more:
- ICE officers will soon be able to deport undocumented immigrants in the US for under 2 years without a hearing
- Here’s how Trump changed ICE’s mission, and what it could cost the US
- Trump’s ICE raids on thousands of immigrants are ‘a big show to scare people’ and won’t solve anything, immigration experts warn
- Immigrants have rights when ICE comes to arrest them, but experts warn this only goes so far
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