NYC Lawyers Continue Push To Boot ICE from Courts

Noah Manskar, NYC Patch, December 20, 2017

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The letter from more than 100 attorneys unions, activist groups and elected officials to Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, says the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents turns state-controlled courts into “a bait-and-switch trap” for undocumented immigrants.

DiFiore oversees the state’s court system and controls the policy that currently allows ICE and other law-enforcement agencies to make arrests in court buildings. {snip}

“Right now, any court appearance puts our non-citizen clients at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation by ICE,” the letter reads. “This deprives our clients of due process under the law, effective assistance of counsel, and a genuine right to defend themselves.”

Advocates have sought for weeks to get ICE agents out from courts amid a spike in immigration arrests inside and around them. A November report by the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project counted 78 successful and attempted courthouse arrests in New York City this year, up from just 11 in 2016.

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Allowing ICE into courthouses puts immigrants in a double bind, Tuesday’s letter argues. They have to come to court to defend themselves against criminal charges, but doing so comes with a risk of being deported.

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The Office of Court Administration, the state agency that oversees the courts, allows ICE officers inside as long as they don’t disrupt court proceedings or endanger public safety. Court officers aren’t supposed to help or hinder ICE officers in making arrests, though some lawyers have reported seeing court personnel provide assistance.

It’s uncertain that the OCA has legal authority to ban ICE from courthouses, {snip}

ICE has said it only makes arrests in courthouses when it has exhausted all other options. It’s safer to apprehend immigrants there because they’re screened for weapons before entering, the agency says.

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