By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – Two Massachusetts district attorneys are calling it a victory after a judge temporarily blocked immigration agents from making civil arrests at Massachusetts courthouses.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins argued in a lawsuit that the policy is undercutting their ability to pursue justice.

“We cannot be a nation in which cases cannot proceed because people are afraid to cross the courthouse threshold,” said Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.

It’s also a victory for an undocumented immigrant from Honduras who spoke with WBZ-TV at the Chelsea Collaborative which was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

District Attorneys Rachael Rollins and Marian Ryan (WBZ-TV)

“We are human beings and we have rights as human beings,” said the man, who opted to remain anonymous because of his immigration status.

He said he was afraid to go to court to pursue a harassment order when a neighbor threatened to kill him in what he calls a misunderstanding.

“Very extremely afraid of going to court,” he said through an interpreter. “He knew people and friends were telling him that ICE agents are in court don’t go there.”

In recent years, ICE has allowed federal agents to pick up illegal immigrants when they show up at courthouses. The lawsuit highlights escalating tensions between federal and state officials over immigration enforcement.

“They fought hard and believed what they were doing is lawful,” said Rollins. “We believe what they were doing was wrong, and now a judge has made a determination.”

Advocates at the Chelsea Collaborative say the ruling will help their large immigrant population in cases from domestic violence to landlord and wage disputes.

“It’s an incredible victory. People now have access to justice,” said Gladys Vega.

Critics have said ICE is just doing its job around courthouses. The agency itself won’t comment because the lawsuit is still pending.

The lawsuit was months in the making, but it was filed one week after Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph was charged with obstructing justice for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant escape federal detention.  It’s unclear what impact this ruling will have on that case.

Beth Germano

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