New York Bans ICE from Making Arrests in Court

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can no longer make arrests inside of courthouses without judicial warrants or orders, the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) announced on Wednesday. New York is the first state to implement this new rule, The Times Union reported. The OCA, which acts as the administrative arm of the state's court system, had previously allowed ICE agents to administer warrants inside of the courthouses, the Associated Press reported. The rule was signed off by Chief of Public Safety Michael Magliano, according to the AP.

The new rule was praised by immigration advocates, who said arrests of immigrants appearing in court for unrelated matters have increased under the Trump administration, according to the outlet. Immigrant Defense Project Acting Executive Director Mizue Aizeki told Gothamist that the rule is a big step for New York State.

"Today OCA has taken a significant step towards recognizing the significant harms created by ICE's presence in the courts," Aizeki said. "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." The North Star has reached out to ICE for comment on the new rule but did not hear back in time for publication. A report from the Immigration Defense Project found a 1,700 percent increase in arrests and sightings between 2016 and 2018. Last year, the organization noted 178 arrests in New York state courthouses in 2017, compared to 11 arrests in 2016.

The rule only applies to the inside of courthouses and does not impact the agency’s operations outside of them, according to the Times Union. ICE can still make arrests nearby courthouses, but a bill pending in the New York legislature would also prevent the agency from doing so, the publication reported. In 2017, ICE released a directive that clarified how the agency will conduct arrests in state courthouses, Reuters reported. The guidelines stated that ICE would target immigrants who are in the US illegally at courthouses but would refrain from arresting family members or friends unless they interfere with the agency’s actions, the publication reported.

“Federal, state, and local law enforcement officials routinely engage in enforcement activity in courthouses throughout the country because many individuals appearing in courthouses for one matter are wanted for unrelated criminal or civil violations. ICE’s enforcement activities in these same courthouses are wholly consistent with longstanding law enforcement practices, nationwide,” the guidelines read. “And, courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails.”

In December, dozens of retired federal and state judges wrote a letter requesting that US immigration officials stop arresting people in courthouses who they believe are in the country illegally, the AP previously reported. The letter, which was organized by the Brennan Center for Justice, was signed by nearly 70 judges from 23 states and sent to Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello.

“We urge you to take steps to restore confidence in safe access to the courts, including treating courthouses as ‘sensitive locations’ as you do schools, hospitals, places of worship and religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations,” the letter read. “Current ICE policy prohibits officers from conducting enforcement activities in sensitive locations except in ‘exigent circumstances,’ such as risks of violence and national security measures. The same level of consideration must apply to courts.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.