CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval announced a new task force Tuesday designed to ensure immigrants and minorities feel safe in the courthouse.
The effort stems from reports that immigration officials have entered the courthouse and arrested illegal immigrants there for court business.
Pureval, who was joined at the announcement by the Immigration and Refugee Law Center and Catholic Charities, argued immigrants feel targeted at the courthouse and that it could prevent individuals from showing up.
“We are hearing from our immigrant communities, from everyday folks who just need to get work done in the courthouse, that they do not feel welcome or safe here,” Pureval said. “That is a problem, and a problem for all of us to fix, certainly a problem for my office to delve into because, again, my priority is access to justice.”
Emily Brown of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality talked about the rise of so-called “collateral arrests."
“We are seeing ICE going into a courthouse and making an arrest for a person they have a warrant for or an order of removal,” Brown said, “but they will stop and question other people, and other people will get arrested as well."
Pureval says there is one judge that can be singled out for having contacted ICE officials to alert them of the presence of illegal immigrants in his court. That judge is Robert Ruehlman.
Ruehlman says he has called ICE officials for years if there is an illegal immigrant in his courtroom, and that he will continue to do so.
Ruehlman disputes the "collateral arrests’ claim by the task force. He says immigration officials have never entered his courtroom to arrest or detained a witness or a family member. Ruehlman stated when a person is charged with a crime and is known to be an illegal immigrant, he calls officials to alert them.
Ruehlman added it is an ethical obligation as a judge to do so.
“You come into my courtroom and have committed a serious crime," he said, "and you’re an illegal immigrant, I will call ICE to make sure you do not get out of jail.”
Pureval said the task force will study best practices at courthouses around the county, then reach out to other state and local officials to implement what they learned.
Ruehlman counters he will not change the way he runs his court, setting up a possible political showdown.