AM New York | ICE Courthouse Arrests Threaten Public Safety, Immigrant Advocates Say
By Alison Fox
City officials and attorneys urged federal immigration authorities on Wednesday to rescind their policy of arresting individuals outside and around courthouses, just weeks after Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced its new policy.
The new policy allows ICE officers to target undocumented immigrants at courthouses, according to reports, with enforcement sparing friends or family members unless they’re deemed to be a threat to public safety. The guidelines state that ICE officers will mostly avoid enforcement in non-criminal areas like family court.
But legal advocates said the immigration agents are unfairly targeting their clients, some of whom have no prior criminal records and are seeking dispositions in pending legal proceedings.
Seven people were arrested outside courthouses in Brooklyn last month, and at least one has been arrested outside a courthouse in the Bronx with several more in Manhattan, according to the district attorneys for each borough.
“We are appealing to them as law enforcement officers not to make these arrests in our courthouses or right outside our courthouses,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “It does not keep us safe, it jeopardizes public safety.”
ICE spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez said that the agency makes only selective arrests “against specific aliens.
“As with all planned enforcement actions, ICE officers exercise sound judgment when enforcing federal law and make substantial efforts to avoid unnecessarily alarming the public,” Rodriguez said.
Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society, said immigrants are being “ripped out of our communities.
“When are we going to hit our breaking point?” she said, adding: “We must demand that they stop using our courts to take away people from their families.”
Public Advocate Letitia James said the ICE directive has the potential to intimidate witnesses and others coming to court, as well.
“We cannot pursue justice when injustice prevails,” she said, adding that defense attorneys, district attorneys and city officials were “united in our effort to defend immigrants and ensure our justice system’s not compromised.”