Lawyers protest outside Bronx courthouse after ICE agents arrest immigrant: 'No one's safe here'

Daily News | Lawyers protest outside Bronx courthouse after ICE agents arrest immigrant
By Edgar Sandoval and Rocco Parascandola
April 10, 2018

Bumbling immigration officers wrongly busted a Bronx man on charges of being in the U.S. illegally — nearly costing him his job, his lawyer said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents picked up Rayon Smith, 31, on Monday after a Bronx Criminal Court judge dismissed an assault charge against him.

His arrest sparked an impromptu protest by Legal Aid lawyers and public defenders outside the Bronx courthouse.

But ICE officials found the detainer — the document calling for his arrest by immigration officers — was wrongly issued, said Smith’s public defender.

So the agents let Smith go.

Smith was due at 1 p.m. at his job as concierge of an Upper East Side condo building. When he failed to show, his bosses were ready to fire him — “they were furious,” said Casey Dalporto, his Legal Aid immigration lawyer.

But Smith smoothed things over with his bosses by explaining the situation, she said.

Smith, who is married, was charged in the Bronx with domestic violence in a case involving his girlfriend.

When a Bronx Criminal Court judge dismissed the case around 10:20 a.m., ICE agents were waiting to arrest him for being in the U.S. illegally.

His criminal lawyer, public defender Andrew Mandel, watched as his client was led off in handcuffs.

“It was very upsetting and I couldn’t talk to him. I couldn’t get close to him and they took him away,” Mandel said.

ICE officials told Smith his detainer was issued before agents realized he has a pending application for a green card, said his lawyers.

Smith got permission to work in the U.S. in 2015 and has had his current job for 2 1/2 years, Mandel said.

Smith’s wife and three children — who are 4 months old, 2 years old and 10 years old — are all citizens, said the lawyer.

Smith, originally from Jamaica, has no criminal record.

After Smith’s arrest, 100 Legal Aid Society employees and public defenders demonstrated outside the Bronx courthouse.

“What do we want? ICE out! When do we want it? Now!” they chanted, carrying signs that read “ICE out of our courts!” and “Stop Tearing Families Apart.”

“We are protesting against what happened,” Mandel said.

“It’s happening more and more, which is why we are having this protest. We want them to stop arresting people when they come for their court appearances.”

Plainclothes ICE agents sit quietly in Bronx courtrooms waiting for immigrants’ cases to be called, said Dalporto.

“They have some officers waiting outside the courtroom so they can run interference there,” Dalporto said.

The agents won’t say why they’re in court. “They refuse to answer any questions. They won’t identify themselves. They are very aggressive when you ask them,” said Dalporto.

Another lawyer, public defender Janie Williams, said ICE’s aggressive enforcement makes immigrants and their families reluctant to report crimes.

“No one’s safe here,” Williams said. “They need to feel safe when they come to the courthouse.”

Smith could not be reached for comment.

An ICE spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for more information on Smith’s case.