Boston, MA– Last week, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling brought charges against a Newton District judge and a court officer for allegedly assisting an undocumented immigrant to evade an ICE officer by using an alternate exit from the courthouse. Lelling’s decision to bring charges has been criticized as federal overreach by some including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Now, two district attorneys (Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan) along with immigrant advocates are firing back with a lawsuit against ICE.

The lawsuit argues that officers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit should not be permitted to make arrests in courthouses, stating to Commonwealth Magazine that “ICE’s policy is undermining the work of the justice system as a whole.” The position of DAs is that the federal government has violated the 10th amendment by intervening in local court affairs. The lawsuit was officially announced this morning; the plaintiffs are represented by attorneys at Lawyers for Civil Rights and Goodwin Procter.

Prior to this morning’s official announcement, in a joint statement with Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said: “Prosecutors are forced to abandon cases because many victims and witnesses are deterred from appearing in court. The policy also makes it more difficult to obtain defendants’ appearance[s] in court.” DA Rollins has already made it known that her office will take action to keep ICE out of courtrooms.

U.S. Attorney Lelling was appointed by President Trump in 2017. Since his appointment, he has made national headlines for his office’s prosecution of dozens of wealthy parents and college coaches accused in the college admissions bribery scandal. Lelling has also prosecuted Massachusetts State Police members accused in the overtime pay fraud investigation, and he brought racketeering charges against drug executives from Insys Therapeutics who allegedly bribed doctors to prescribe addictive opioids as painkillers.

Lelling defended his case against Judge Shelley Joseph (who is now suspended without pay), saying: “From certain quarters, I have heard the occasional gasp of dismay, or outrage, at the notion of holding a judge accountable for violating federal law. ‘How dare I.’ But if the law is not applied equally, it cannot credibly be applied to anyone.”

Many are skeptical of Lelling’s motives, however, with more than one person noting that if he is trying to buddy up to President Trump, this is a very public demonstration of his loyalty to a president who campaigned on anti-immigration and has recently called for strict enforcement of immigration law by ICE.

Image via Flickr / Emmanuel Huybrechts