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DIASPORA | ICE agents barred from making arrests in NY courts without a judicial warrant

Featured U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents make an arrest in Los Angeles. (Photo: AP file photo) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents make an arrest in Los Angeles. (Photo: AP file photo)
NEW YORK, NY, April 22, 2019 - United States Immigration Customs Enforcement Officers, (ICE) have been prohibited from arresting anyone in New York State Courts, including illegal immigrants, without a judicial warrant or order under a new rule that took effect this week. 

Court officials issued the directive after receiving numerous reports about agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arresting illegal immigrants after court appearances.

A directive issued last Wednesday by the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge, states that a judge or court attorney must review the warrant or order prior to any arrest in courthouses by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. 

Before the change, ICE officers often entered court buildings armed with administrative ICE warrants that are issued by the agency, and not by a judge.

The rule change does not prevent ICE officers from waiting outside courthouses to pick up immigrants without lawful status. Advocates have been urging the New York state Legislature to pass the Protect Our Courts Act, which would prevent ICE from areas surrounding court buildings. 

“This rule change is a big win for thousands of immigrants and their families across New York state who will no longer be sitting ducks in the courtroom,” said Terry Lawson, director of the Family and Immigration Unit at Bronx Legal Services, the Bronx office of Legal Services NYC, in a statement. 

“We can now advise the women, men, and children we represent that ICE cannot arrest them in New York state courts without a warrant with their name on it, signed by a judge," Lawson said.

The non-profit organization, Legal Services NYC, said a coalition of more than 100 organizations across New York State issued a new report on April 10, measuring the harmful impact of ICE's increased courthouse arrests on vulnerable immigrants' ability to access justice.

This included survivors of domestic and sexual violence, victims of human trafficking, single mothers and immigrant youth.

The report, which surveyed judges, district attorneys, public defenders, elected officials, and legal advocates from across the state, documents irrefutable evidence of ICE's devastating impact on New York State courts, including a 90 per cent drop in calls made to immigrant hotlines reporting crimes in certain locations.

In addition, the report states that there's a rise in ICE-related threats from abusive partners, a rise in victims being afraid to testify or seek help from courts, and major ICE-related disruptions to court programmes and practices.

In a study it conducted last year, the Immigration Defense Project found a 900 percent increase in ICE arrests at New York courthouses from January 2017 through early last year.  

“For two years ICE has defied the calls from advocates, elected officials, and court practitioners — including judges, defenders and prosecutors — to stop using the courts to target immigrants,” said Immigrant Defense Project Acting Executive Director Mizue Aizeki.

“Today OCA has taken a significant step towards recognizing the significant harms created by ICE’s presence in the courts. The next step is for Albany to pass the Protect Our Courts Act, to end ICE’s practice of arresting people as they are coming to and leaving court, ” Aizeki said.

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  • Countries: United_States

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