Advocates Call for Federal Immigration to Get Out of State Courthouses

As federal officials crack down on illegal immigrants, there is a push to end the practice of waiting for individuals at courthouses.

During a rally at City Hall on Thursday, local officials said since President Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been showing up in state courts, arresting dozens of immigrants at legal hearings.

"Since the beginning of 2017, there have been 38 arrests and attempts to arrest statewide," said Tina Luongo, with Legal Aid Society. "28 people were taken into custody, ripped from their communities, their families, their jobs."

The Legal Aid Society said 19 of those arrests occurred in the five boroughs, often by ICE agents in plainclothes.

Other people have almost been arrested, including a sex trafficking victim in court on a prostitution charge at a Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens last Friday.

Under city policy, the NYPD and the Correction Department do not recognize ICE "detainer orders" to hold people picked up on relatively minor charges.

By showing up in courthouses to make arrests, ICE can circumvent that policy.

The state court system told NY1 that it is monitoring the situation and met with federal officials to "...request that they treat courthouses as sensitive locations, similar to schools, hospitals and places of worship."

But City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is furious that the state's top judges aren't doing more.

"We told them and anticipated that something was going to happen, and they have not taken the appropriate action," Mark-Viverito said.

Advocates are concerned that people who may need the court system for things like housing and family issues may now be too fearful to show up.

Speakers at the press conference Thursday said enforcement activity that discourages defendants from appearing in court, or discourages victims from coming forward, undermines public safety for everyone.

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