Stop ICE Courthouse Arrests in NY
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On November 15th, a Brooklyn mother had what seemed like a routine court appearance. She pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor (her first criminal charge ever) and the judge told her to come back in a couple of months. She could rush home to see her 16 year-old son and resolve this case in the new year.
But when the 40 year-old mother walked out of the courtroom, several undercover ICE agents suddenly surrounded her and ushered her into a private area of the court. When her defense attorney caught up to the agents and tried to invoke her client's rights, ICE agents laughed in her face.
This mother's routine court appearance had suddenly turned into a nightmare. Instead of returning home to her son, the woman was arrested, locked up in a detention facility, and now faces deportation.
Cases like these have been increasingly common. Since the beginning of 2017, lawyers and advocates have documented an alarming 900% jump in ICE operations in New York courts.
Squads of plainclothes ICE agents are now regularly roaming our halls of justice. They are preying on people with documented mental illness, people who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, immigrants who are documented and undocumented, and others from the most vulnerable populations in our state.
The chilling effect of these arrests on our justice is system is broad and profound. Victims are afraid to seek protection, witnesses are declining to testify, parents are fearful of seeking child support, tenants are not seeking protection from abusive landlords, and immigrants facing criminal charges are denied their fair day in court. As ICE arrests have continued unabated, reports of court officer involvement in several incidents create the troubling appearance that court staff are colluding with federal immigration agents.
As the Chief Judge of the New York State Court system, you are the chief protector of a vital pillar of our democracy. We ask that you take a stand to stop these unlawful arrests which so clearly undermine the administration of justice.
We implore you to exercise your constitutional authority to issue policies that will meaningfully protect our courts and ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers.
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