Sovereign Resistance to Federal Immigration Enforcement in State Courthouses

43 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2018 Last revised: 24 Oct 2019

Date Written: November 18, 2018


The federal government has maintained its supremacy over the enactment of immigration laws for over a century. Enforcement of those laws, however, is increasingly a matter of cooperative federalism -- or uncooperative, as the case may be. In response to a recent trend of state and local resistance to President Trump’s stepped-up enforcement regime, immigration authorities have a new strategy: Storm the courts. Increasingly, federal immigration agents are targeting state courthouses, typically in plain clothes, without identification and without warrants, to carry out largely civil apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants. This unprecedented practice, in some cases involving unconstitutional tactics, impairs the ability of immigrant litigants, witnesses and their families to seek and pursue justice in state courts. An unusual alliance of district attorneys and Legal Aid lawyers are speaking out and walking out of courts in protest. Activists and scholars together are looking for legal strategies to curb the practice. This article identifies the normative underpinnings of maintaining courthouses as sensitive locations and illuminates the Constitutional claims that states and individuals may explore to resist or restrain federal immigration authorities from state courts.

Keywords: immigration, courts, judiciary, arrest, sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Rogerson, Sarah Hill, Sovereign Resistance to Federal Immigration Enforcement in State Courthouses (November 18, 2018). 32 Geo. Immigr. L. J. 275 (2018); Albany Law School Research Paper No. 9 for 2019-2020. Available at SSRN:

Sarah Hill Rogerson (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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