SAN DIEGO — Federal immigration authorities formalized a policy Wednesday to send deportation agents to federal, state and local courthouses to make arrests, dismissing complaints from judges and advocacy groups that it instills fear among crime victims, witnesses and family members.

The two-page directive from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it will enter courthouses only for specific targets, such as convicted criminals, gang members, public safety threats and immigrants who have been previously deported or ordered to leave. Family, friends and witnesses won’t be picked up for deportation but ICE leaves a caveat for “special circumstances.”

The policy, signed by ICE acting director Thomas Homan, says immigration agents should generally avoid arrests in non-criminal areas of the court, like family court and small claims, unless it supervisor approves.

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