A coalition of legal groups are calling on the Office of Court Administration and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to issue rules to address arrests being made at courthouses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The Legal Aid Society, New York County Defender Services, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re “concerned by the proliferation of ICE courthouse arrests since January.”
“ICE’s continued presence in our courts causes fear to those that have a right under the Constitution to face any charges against them. They deter those seeking redress from the courts, and our staff’s ability to provide zealous representation to their clients. The harm is immeasurable, and it only stands to grow,” the groups said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the Fund for Modern Courts issued a report suggesting that the state’s courts should limit their cooperation and assistance with immigration enforcement in courts. So far this year, ICE agents have arrested 52 people while they were in court in New York state, the majority in New York City, a spokesman for the courts said. This is the first year the state’s court system has tracked ICE activities and arrests in courthouses, which has increased as a result of expanded immigration enforcement actions under the Trump administration.
ICE has issued a policy on enforcement actions at “sensitive locations” including schools and houses of worships but does not view courthouses as a sensitive location, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website. DHS is the parent agency of ICE.
The coalition of organizations is asking OCA to “promulgate rules that would limit federal immigration enforcement’s ability to arrest our clients in or around courthouses and for New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to take action that supports this immediately.”
OCA has been “monitoring and tracking” the presence of ICE agents in courthouses, OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said in an email.
“Court officers are not complicit, do not coordinate with, facilitate or impede actions by outside law enforcement, including ICE agents, when they effect an arrest inside New York state courthouses,” Chalfen said, adding that OCA has met with and written to federal officials to ask that they treat courthouses as sensitive locations, similar to schools or places of worship.