New York state’s Office of Court Administration issued updated rules Wednesday that immigration advocates hailed as a check on the ability for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to make arrests inside state courthouses, just a week after a new, 80-page report detailed the impact of federal immigration officials operating in the state courthouses.
“We have concluded that this report provides us with a sufficient basis to take the step that many have asked us to take to require that ICE present a judge-issued warrant before conducting an arrest in a state courthouse,” Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks told the New York Law Journal. “Although we’re not aware that any other court system in the country has taken this step, this comprehensive, well-documented report has convinced us that this change in policy is now appropriate and warranted.”
The one-page directive, signed by Chief of Public Safety Michael Magliano, stated that ICE agents will only be permitted to take individuals into custody inside New York state courthouses if they are in possession of a warrant issued by a federal judge.
Immigration advocates and legal advocates heralded the court’s move as a major victory for efforts to reduce the ability of federal immigration officials to operate in state courts.
“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,” Legal Aid Society attorney-in-chief Janet Sabel said in a statement. “This new rule will truly help protect immigrant New Yorkers from the pervasive and rampant immigration enforcement at courthouses that we have seen on a regular basis since the start of the Trump administration.”
Bronx Legal Services family and immigration unit director Terry Lawson said in a separate statement that the rules will keep immigrant families from being “sitting ducks in the courtroom.”
“We can now advise the women, men, and children we represent that ICE cannot arrest them in New York state courts without a warrant with their name on it, signed by a judge,” Lawson said.
A spokeswoman for ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
State court officials have been under pressure for over a year by advocates to address ICE’s presence in the state courthouses. According to the Legal Aid Society, ICE arrests on state court property have increased 1,700 percent since President Donald Trump took office. Public defenders have regularly executed walk-outs to protest the actions by ICE in state courthouses.
The report state court officials credited with bolstering the need for the rule change was released by the Immigration Defense Project. It found that the increased presence of federal immigration officers in and around New York state courts has led to a sharp decline in equal access to litigation and the use of legal services by undocumented immigrants.
The new court’s new rules were well-received by state lawmakers already keen to provide statutory protections. A bill currently being considered in Albany would essentially codify the administrative restrictions on ICE arrests now promulgated by OCA.
The sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, called the new rule “a very positive step,” but said his bill was still needed.
“I’m grateful for OCA recognizing the vulnerability in our court system that exposes undocumented individuals to ICE actions, and I think it also shows the need for Albany to pass a strong bill to codify these protections,” he said.
The legislation would extend protections beyond simply state courthouse property, Hoylman said, to protect individuals journeying to and from courthouses from being intercepted by ICE.