Immigrants’ families and advocates are celebrating a huge victory after the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) recently announced new rules prohibiting ICE from arresting individuals in state courthouses without a judicial warrant or judicial order. Before this rule change, ICE often entered court buildings with only administrative ICE warrants and most often did not show any warrant at all. New York is the first state in the country to make this groundbreaking rule change.
The new rule comes after a two-year community campaign by the ICE Out of Courts Coalition pushing for court rules and legislation to keep ICE from laying in wait for immigrant victims, witnesses, defendants and family members in and around courthouses across New York. Just last week, the coalition renewed the call for court rules in an 80-page report measuring the harmful impact of ICE’sincreased courthouse operations.
While the new rule makes a huge change inside courthouses across the state, ICE agents can still wait in parking lots or stand outside court buildings to try to pick up immigrant New Yorkers as they attend or leave court. That is why advocates are urging the NY state legislature to pass the Protect Our Courts Act, which would keep ICE out of the area surrounding court buildings so that they cannot prey on immigrant families interacting with the court system.
“For two years ICE has defied the calls from advocates, elected officials and court practitioners—including judges, defenders, and prosecutors—to stop using the courts to target immigrants,” said Immigrant Defense Project Acting Executive Director Mizue Aizeki said, “OCA has taken a significant step towards recognizing the significant harms created by ICE’s presence in the courts. The next step is for Albany to pass the Protect OurCourts Act, to end ICE’s practice of arresting people as they are coming to and leaving court.”
“All New Yorkers should be able to access New York State courthouses without fear or intimidation by ICE, which is why OCA’s announcement is a critical step forward for our communities,” said Natalia Aristizabal, Co-Director ofOrganizing, Make the Road New York.“Our community members have seen an unprecedented increase in ICE raids at the courts, which makes us all less safe. OCA’s new rule will significantly limit this dangerous practice. The next step is for New York legislators to pass theProtect Our Courts Act so that all NewYorkers will know, once and for all, that they can access courthouses without fear of ICE.”
“No survivor should have to face the threat of deportation for holding an abuser accountable. No abuser should go free because a victim fears ICE,” said Evangeline M. Chan, Director, SafeHorizon Immigration Law Project.“Today’s directive from the Office of the Chief Administrative Judge will help ensure survivors can seek and access justice.”
“Upstate New York knows far too well the devastating impacts of ICE raids in our courts. From community members with traffic tickets to domestic violence survivors, our community is terrified to togo to court,” said Bryan MacCormack, Executive Director, the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement.