Last month we reported on a video that showed ICE agents waiting in the hallway of a Denver courthouse to arrest someone. Advocates for immigrants’ rights said the practice of using the courts to find wanted people discourages all immigrants, including victims and witnesses, from reporting crimes, showing up to court and participating in the court process.
In the video, ICE agents do not say whom they’re there to arrest, and they appear to leave without taking anyone into custody. 9News reported Thursday that the man they were looking for was Juan Carlos Lara-Rios, a legal immigrant with permanent residency and a felony criminal record.
Lara-Rios was in court the day the video was shot to be sentenced on charges he stole tools from the back of a truck. He received two years probation. It’s not clear when Lara-Rios was arrested, but 9News said he is now in federal immigration detention.
Lara-Rios has felony convictions for trespassing, criminal conspiracy and theft, as well as misdemeanor convictions on his record. He has never been charged with a violent crime.
The attorney in the video, Whitney Leeds of the Meyer Law Office, did not represent Lara-Rios in his criminal case, and according to the law office, she wasn’t representing any clients in court on the day the video was shot.
In an interview with Denverite, Hans Meyer of the Meyer Law Office said that in asking ICE agents not to come to court, he’s not asking them not to do their jobs. He thinks it would be better, though, for the entire community’s safety if ICE officers arrested people on immigration violations the way other law enforcement makes arrests.
City Attorney Kristin Bronson told 9News her office has had to drop four domestic violence cases because the victims are afraid to encounter immigration officers at the courthouse.