ICE agents at Travis County courthouses looking for suspects


5:40 p.m. update: Juan Coronilla-Guerrero was one of dozens of unauthorized immigrants released from the local jail after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez implemented a new policy to not honor many ICE detainers.

Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife, in a news release from the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, confirmed that Coronilla-Guerrero was one of more than 30 immigrants released in the days following Hernandez’s implementation of a policy that greatly limited cooperation with ICE requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants.

“My husband was one of the 36 immigrants who could leave the jail under the (sheriff’s policy) and even though he had an immigration order, he wanted to do the right thing and he appeared at his second court date,” said Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife, who withheld her name because she fears reprisals from immigration officials.

Earlier: ICE agents in Austin on Friday detained an immigrant suspected of being in the country illegally at the Travis County courthouse, in what appears to be a new tactic by immigration officials.

Defense attorney Daniel Betts confirmed to the American-Statesman that his client, Juan Coronilla-Guerrero, was detained at the courthouse, where was scheduled to appear for two misdemeanor charges, assault-family violence and possession of marijuana.

Betts said his client was arrested in an elevator at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center.

The Travis County sheriff’s office confirmed that ICE agents were at the courthouse serving a warrant.

Attorney George Lobb, who saw the arrest, said the paperwork he saw was not a warrant or other court order.

“It struck me as extraordinary,” said Betts, who added that his client was in court expressly to resolve the misdemeanor charges so we would not run into problems with immigration.

“I told my client a week and a half ago that I didn’t think ICE would be at the courts, but we see how that turned out.”

Earlier:

Federal immigration agents were at two separate Travis County courthouses on Friday morning and arrested at least one defendant who was arriving for a court hearing, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said, based on preliminary information she had received.

The man was detained before agents notified the judge or defense attorney in his case, evoking new fears about immigration agents using the courts to nab people believed to be in the country illegally.

Eckhardt said she is working to obtain additional information from judges and other staff.

STATESMAN EXCLUSIVE: Meet the immigrants arrested in Austin ICE raids

The report of federal agents looking for suspects at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center and the Heman Sweatt Travis County Courthouse comes three weeks after an ICE enforcement operation centered on Austin and four other metro areas across the US that led to the arrests of 683 people.

In the past, deportation proceedings in Travis County have largely been prompted by an arrest that led to immigration checks. But during the four-day enforcement operation, ICE officials were out in the community, pulling people over and taking them in.

The mid-February ICE raids fueled speculation that Austin was being singled out because of recent controversy over newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s policy to deny most of the agency’s requests to delay the release of inmates at the Travis County jail for immigration checks.

IN-DEPTH: Is ICE targeting Austin? Local leaders ask agency that question

Check back for updates on this developing story.



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