While it’s encouraging to hear that the Office of Court Administration may finally promulgate rules to protect immigrants from ICE arrests at New York State courthouses, we nonetheless need legislation that would codify these protections and make them permanent.
The Protect Our Courts Act—sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Michaelle Solages—would make it unlawful for ICE to arrest any person going to, attending, or leaving court unless the arrest is pursuant to a warrant signed by a federal judge. ICE usually appears at court with only an administrative warrant signed by an ICE supervisor, without any meaningful determination of probable cause or any authority by the federal courts.
Our courts must be safe places for noncitizens to appear. Overzealous ICE officers operating with zero oversight must not be allowed to use our courts at their whim. Codifying the judicial warrant requirement would help to protect vulnerable immigrants from the vagaries of changing court administrations and reaffirm New York’s commitment as a sanctuary state. It is both common sense and good public policy and should be made the law of the land.
Tina Luongo is attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice of The Legal Aid Society