CA Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye denounces ‘stalking’ of immigrants, use of courthouses as ‘baits’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions;  California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye

Attorney General Jeff Sessions; California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

An open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions penned by the California Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye contained a passionate argument against immigration enforcement policies revolving around California courthouses.

“I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” she said in a letter addressed to Sessions as well as to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

In February, a Mexican national was arrested by ICE agents at a Pasadena courthouse in Southern California. Similar incidents are being reported in Arizona, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Texas, prompting immigration lawyers and advocates to call out ICE agents for “lurking” outside courthouses.

Cantil-Sakauye writes, “Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law.”

When courts are used as “bait” for immigration arrests, she lamented that “they not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary’s ability to provide equal access to justice.”

“Why isn’t Chief Justice so-and-so from this state saying anything about this?” was a query
addressed to Cantil-Sakauye when she keynoted an event sponsored by the Southern California’s Arab American Lawyers Association.

She noted the subject was a critical issue for the judiciary to address “because it is a separation of powers issue, it is a public trust and confidence issue, and I believe we have a right to speak about the court system as a chief justice…So you can see, it was anger. It was: Why isn’t anyone speaking about this? It goes on and on, and no one calls it out, and it had to be called out.”

The chief justice urged lawyers and bar associations to reach out to communities that are in need of legal services but are mistrustful of law enforcement agencies.

“They’re not going to come to you. I tell you, the Filipino community that I grew up in, they
would never have the nerve, never even try to talk to a judge. It’s incumbent on us to bring justice
to them,” she said.

The Sacramento-born Cantil-Sakauye rose from the Superior Court of Sacramento County to become
Chief Justice of California. She was sworn in office on January 3, 2011. She’s become a voice for female attorneys who have faced prejudice in the male-dominated legal world.

She quipped that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed her on July 22, 2010 to her present position because he saw her name, and “ethnic to ethnic, we identified.” She was elected in a general election on November 2, 2010, in what was
described as an auspicious event hailed by “an overwhelming majority of voters.”

She received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, Davis, graduating with honors in 1980. After taking a year off to visit her ancestral homeland, the Philippines, she entered the UC Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., School of Law in 1981.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is married to Mark Sakauye, a retired police lieutenant. They have two daughters.

Copyright © 2017 The FilAm


  1. Klint V wrote:

    Solid arguments from the chief justice. Keep up the amazing effort.

  2. Laura G wrote:

    Hi there, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this blog post. Keep on posting!

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