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April 22, 2019

New Rules Limit ICE’s Arrest Ability in New York State Courts

By Michael H. Joseph

On April 17, 2019 the New York state’s Office of Court Administration issued a memo that bars ICE agents from making arrests on state court property, including New York’s Criminal courthouses, absent a warrant issued by a federal judge. Immigration advocates hailed the new policy as a check on Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ ability to make arrests inside New York state courthouses, just a week after a new, 80-page report detailed the impact of federal immigration officials making arrests in the state courthouses.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks 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.

State court officials have been under pressure for over a year by advocates to address ICE’s presence in the state courthouses. 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. It was 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. Not only our White Plains Criminal defense lawyers have noticed that, immigrants are now afraid to even come to court to face criminal charges even when they are innocent out of fear of being deported.  This may result in immigrants skipping court dates and having warrants issued, which will tie up the court system.

The one-page directive, signed by New York State 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. They also stated that the rules will keep immigrant families from being “sitting ducks in the courtroom.”

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. 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. Our Westchester criminal defense lawyers know how frightening it can be for an undocumented immigrant to go to criminal court because we have represented undocumented immigrants in the Westchester criminal courts including White Plains, Yonkers, Tarrytown, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Mt Pleasant, Port Chester and New Rochelle.

Our Westchester Immigration Attorney’s 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 as the legislation now will extend protections beyond simply state courthouse property to protect individuals journeying to and from courthouses from being intercepted by ICE.  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. If you are an immigrant facing criminal charges in Westchester, our White Plains criminal defense attorneys can help.

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