PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION CALLING ON THE PENNSYLVANIA COURTS AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW AGENCIES TO IMPLEMENT POLICIES LIMITING COMMUNICATION WITH ICE BY COURT OR AGENCY PERSONNEL AND MONITORING ICE ACCESS TO COURTHOUSES, ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING OFFICES AND PROBATION OFFICES FOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the United States, is committed to advancing the fair and effective administration of justice; and

WHEREAS, access to justice for litigants and witnesses is a cornerstone of our justice system, embodied in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and in the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is effecting arrests in and around courthouses, administrative hearing offices, and probation offices in Philadelphia and around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the entire country with the collaboration of court personnel who are asking litigants and witnesses about their immigration status and providing such information to ICE or assisting with ICE arrests; and

WHEREAS, stories of ICE enforcement actions in and around courthouses, administrative hearing offices, and probation offices in Philadelphia, across the Commonwealth and around the country have caused fear among litigants, witnesses, victims and family members; and

WHEREAS, advocates in Philadelphia and across the state have seen a decrease in immigrant clients seeking legal assistance in domestic violence cases, civil cases, and administrative law matters, including workers’ compensation matters, due to fears of ICE presence in and around courthouses and administrative hearing offices; and

WHEREAS, victim and witness advocate organizations in Philadelphia have had immigrant crime victims and witnesses inform them that they do not wish to appear in court due to fear of ICE action against them; and

WHEREAS, workers’ compensation attorneys in Philadelphia and across the state have had immigrant clients inform them that they do not wish to appear in court for administrative hearings due to fear of ICE action against them; and

WHEREAS, the arrest and detention of criminal defendants by ICE prior to the resolution of their case is contrary to the administration of justice within our criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS, the active participation of victims, witnesses, criminal defendants, and other litigants is vital to a healthy and robust justice system; and

WHEREAS, Title VI (42 U.S.C. § 2000d) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or national origin by government agencies receiving federal funds including the courts, and, as recognized by the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, inquiring into immigration status may implicate Title VI; and

WHEREAS, litigants’ personal information obtained through the judicial process by staff members of the Pennsylvania Courts, Administrative Law Agencies (including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication) or probation offices should not be shared beyond the confines of the judicial process, otherwise confidence in the system is compromised; and

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Courts and Administrative Law Agencies, including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, currently do not have a policy in place delineating circumstances in which administrative hearing office or judiciary staff, including both courtroom staff and probation officers, are permitted to share information with ICE; and

WHEREAS, the Pennsylvania Courts and Administrative Law Agencies, including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, currently do not have a policy in place designed to monitor when ICE is present in the courthouse or administrative hearing offices and to regulate when ICE may exercise its power in a manner contrary to the administration of courthouse or administrative hearing office business, and, despite recent laudable changes implemented by the Philadelphia Sheriff, further action by the courts remains necessary; and

WHEREAS, without such policies, advocates are unable to fully advise clients regarding risks of proceeding in a case in which they are a victim, a defendant, a witness, or a family member; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania Courts and Administrative Law Agencies, including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, have the power and ability to implement policies in furtherance of the administration of justice; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Police Department continues to believe that its “sanctuary” policy whereby immigration status is not asked of witnesses or victims provides the basis for more effective law enforcement in immigrant communities; and

WHEREAS, on July 29, 2010 the Philadelphia Bar Association passed a resolution supporting Sanctuary policies as “local enforcement relies on the immigrant community’s trust to report crime, and victims and witnesses will be hesitant to come forward if their immigration status will be the subject of investigation;” and

WHEREAS, on September 29, 2016, the Philadelphia Bar Association passed a resolution opposing House Bill No. 1885, Printer's No. 3075, on "Sanctuary Cities," and called on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to oppose "any other bill that would punish counties or municipalities for making the decision to disentangle local policing from enforcement of civil immigration laws;" and

WHEREAS, on March 30, 2017, the Philadelphia Bar Association passed a resolution opposing Senate Bill No. 273, Printer's No. 259, on "Sanctuary Campuses," and recognized therein that “campus law enforcement collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would undermine trust in campus public safety services, leading many immigrants to avoid coming forward to seek protection, report crimes, and cooperate in investigations, and possibly to avoid participating and engaging in intellectual pursuits with their peers and instructors;” and

WHEREAS, these resolutions reflect a belief that the power of ICE must be balanced with the privacy rights of immigrants and the rights of immigrants to access public safety services and the judicial system.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association expresses its strong support for the creation of policies that 1) monitor ICE presence in and around courthouses, administrative hearing offices, including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, and probation offices; 2) prohibit all court or administrative hearing office personnel, including administrative hearing officers, from inquiring into immigration status and from divulging sensitive and private information to ICE about noncitizen defendants/probationers/parties/witnesses, including home and work addresses; and 3) prohibit probation officers and other court or administrative hearing office personnel from detaining individuals on behalf of ICE unless a judicial warrant exists.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee to coordinate with other bar associations and to communicate the content of this resolution to representatives of the Pennsylvania Courts, including representatives of the First Judicial District and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, the directors of other Pennsylvania Administrative Law Agencies, members of the General Assembly, the Governor, state and local public officials, and the public at large, and to take such other action as may be appropriate including, but not limited to, calling on representatives of the Pennsylvania Courts, including the First Judicial District and/or the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the Administrative Law Agencies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication, to develop and implement such policies.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: April 25, 2019