Man arrested outside courthouse now fighting deportation, attorney says

San Francisco Hall of Justice

Immigration activists rallied in San Francisco on Monday at the same location where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a man as he was entering a court hearing less than a week ago.

Last Tuesday, ICE agents arrested Alberto Uc Ponce, 43, of San Francisco, on the steps on the Hall of Justice, located at 850 Bryant St.

According to his supporters, as well as the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, the arrest violated state law because the ICE agents didn't provide a judicial warrant.

Uc Ponce's attorney, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Emi MacLean, said just before his arrest, Uc Ponce was scheduled to enter a hearing in connection with a nonviolent offense charge.

"He was complying with all of the obligations with the court and little did he know that doing what he's supposed to do, come to court, would place him in immigration detention hours away from his home," she said.

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For now, MacLean said Uc Ponce remains incarcerated in an immigration center near Bakersfield, as he now fights his deportation.

"ICE should not be using people's attendance at court hearings as a justification for their arrest," she said.

Last week's arrest by ICE agents in San Francisco is just one in a handful of arrests to happen outside California criminal courts recently. On Feb. 18, for example, ICE agents arrested two immigrants outside of Sonoma County Superior Court in Santa Rosa.

The recent arrests outside of courthouses by ICE appear to illustrate a long-brewing standoff between federal immigration officials and local cities, counties and the state of California that have declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

Officials with ICE issued a statement last week about Uc Ponce's arrest, saying Uc Ponce had three previous felony convictions for second degree burglary from 2016, 2017 and 2019.

On at least seven occasions, when ICE lodged detainers with local law enforcement following Uc Ponce's arrests, due to sanctuary laws Uc Ponce was released back into the community without their knowledge, ICE officials said.

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom approving Assembly Bill 668 last year, which prohibits arrests in courthouses without judicial warrants, ICE officials maintain state law will not stop federal officers from enforcing immigration laws in sanctuary jurisdictions.

"Now ICE is stalking courthouses as its only way to attempt to apprehend individuals," said Edwin Carmona-Cruz, spokesman for the FREE SF coalition. "We're here not asking for anything new. We're here so that our municipalities can implement state law, AB 668, which prohibits civil arrests in and around criminal courts."

Both San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin have condemned Uc Ponce's arrest.