The fight to keep New York State (NYS) courthouses safe for undocumented immigrants continues as the New York City Council held a hearing yesterday on a resolution urging the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the Protect Our Courts Act into law.
The act would prohibit Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from making civil arrests in and around New York State courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order.
City Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook), chair of the Council’s Committee on Immigration, said at the hearing, “By brazenly invading the courts to carry out their deportation agenda, ICE is preventing people from coming to court to have their cases adjudicated, preventing victims of crimes from reporting to law enforcement and harming the integrity and trust of our justice system,” said Menchaca.
“If any space is sanctuary space that upholds due process, it’s the courts. We must protect the courts from ICE’s efforts to tear families apart and ensure due process for all.”
According to a new report, “Safeguarding the Integrity of Our Courts: The Impact of ICE Courthouse Operations in New York,” released by a coalition of public defenders, civil legal service providers and others between 2016 and 2018 the presence of ICE agents within NYS courthouses has increased by 1700%.
The increased presence of federal immigration officers in NYS courts has led to a decline in the use of legal services by undocumented immigrants, which has also led undocumented immigrants to forgo options that could benefit them when facing litigation or criminal charges.
“ICE has sent a clear message to immigrant communities and the jurisdictions that safeguard their rights. ICE has no problem interfering with the court system to achieve their deportation agenda,” said Mizue Aizeki, Acting Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP).
“Despite the mounting evidence documenting the harms of this practice, ICE continues to defy the requests of judges, prosecutors, defenders and advocated to stop stalking immigrants attending court. New York must act now to prevent ICE from continuing this harmful practice,” Aizeki added.
In a new IDP report released earlier this year, New York City accounts for 75% of ICE courthouse interactions between 2016 and 2018, with Queens and Brooklyn reporting the largest number of courthouse arrests and sightings.