NY Is Now The First State To Ban ICE From Courthouses

Donald Trump’s home state of New York is doing something to rein in the president’s deportation force, aka Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE is now no longer permitted to arrest immigrants inside New York courthouses without producing federal judicial warrants or orders.

The Associated Press (AP) reported last month:

“A report by the Immigrant Defense Project said there were 178 arrests in New York state courthouses last year compared to 11 in 2016, and advocates have said immigrants are increasingly fearful to visit courts as a result.”

Since the earliest days of the Trump administration, ICE has rounded up immigrants for minor offenses.

The Immigrant Defense Project stated:

“Some [immigrants] were appearing in court for traffic violations before immigration agents grabbed them.”

José Gutiérrez Castañeda is one such example.

He reported to the San Bernardino, California courthouse in 2017 to pay overdue fines for driving without a license and failing to obtain car insurance. Most would simply be able to pay what they owe and be on their way. However, Gutiérrez Castañeda did not expect ICE officials to be at the courthouse sniffing around for easy prey.

Within hours, Gutiérrez Castañeda was in an immigration detention facility facing removal from the only country he has known since age seventeen.

In Queens, NY, ICE even went so far as stalking immigrants in human trafficking court, something City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said is “a new low in moral depravity.”

She added:

“Contrary to their repeated claims that they pursue only those who are a threat to public safety, ICE agents are now targeting survivors of human trafficking, some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. [This is] a shameful, predatory tactic that will make our city less safe and devastate the trust we have worked so hard to build in the immigrant community.”

Many are lauding the Office of Court Administration’s latest stance against this.

Terry Lawson of Bronx Legal Services said:

“This rule change is a big win for thousands of immigrants and their families across New York State who will no longer be 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.” 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues administrative warrants. Contrary to assumption, they do not give ICE agents authority to apprehend suspected offenders.

A judicial warrant does, though.

Knowledge of this distinction saved two immigrant passengers from being detained indiscriminately in Columbia County, NY in March.

Columbia County Sanctuary Movement trains immigrant communities about how to deal with ICE.

So when ICE agents pulled over the group’s leader, Bryan MacCormack, and attempted to enforce an administrative warrant against two passengers in MacCormack’s car, MacCormack had the perfect response:

“It’s not a judicial warrant. Signed by a judge? You have no jurisdiction over me as a citizen. I’m the driver of this vehicle.”

Gothamist reported:

“New York is the first state in the country to explicitly curtail the ability of federal agents to arrest individuals in this manner.”

Mark Joseph Stern of Slate tweeted:

“Every state should enact this reform.”

Gabe Ortiz wrote in the Daily Kos:

 “From nearly 180 Maine attorneys to California’s Supreme Court chief justice, the calls to ice ICE out of courthouses have been loud, consistent, and crystal-clear.”

Image credit: en.wikipedia.org

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.