By Emilie Ruscoe
The Office of Court Administration issued a directive today explaining specific policies that law enforcement officers — and particularly, ICE agents — are subject to in all state courthouses. Officers entering the state's courts need to identify themselves and state their purpose to a uniformed court officer upon entering, the directive says. If they are planning to make an arrest, the judge on the bench should be informed, and a judge or court attorney must review the federal warrant before they are allowed to proceed.
Additionally, court officers need to file an Unusual Occurrence Report any time a law enforcement agent is in a courtroom in an official capacity.
"In order for our judicial system to function properly, all immigrants — including our clients who have been accused of a crime, parents appearing in family court and survivors of abuse, among others — must have unimpeded access to courts," said Janet Sabel, attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society.
Natalia Aristizabal of Make the Road New York said that the directive "will significantly limit" ICE raids in the state's courts.
But they argued that the directive, which could be rescinded, was not a replacement for legislation that would codify protection for immigrants both inside and outside New York courts. "Albany needs to codify the steps OCA took to day and pass the Protect Our Courts Act," said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), a sponsor of the bill. "As we've learned in recent cases, often individuals are ambushed on their way to and from court by ICE agents, so that is still an area of vulnerability for immigrants who are seeking justice that that we need to address."