New York Attorney General Letitia James says ICE is breaking state law by detaining undocumented immigrants outside NYC courthouses.
New York state is filing a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accusing the agency of performing “unlawful and unconstitutional” arrests in and around New York City courthouses.
According to The Hill, the lawsuit was filed Wednesday by N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Together, the two claim that I.C.E. over-reach deters immigrants from assisting law enforcement and reporting crimes. It’s an argument often employed by proponents of sanctuary city-style policies: that taking away the worry of deportation decreases crime rates by bolstering community trust.
Now, New York is afraid immigrants will lose some hard-earned trust. James claims that, under President Donald Trump’s command, courtside arrests have skyrocketed.
“When ICE targets witnesses and victims for arrests, it deters noncitizens and immigrants from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court,” James said. “This is a disastrous and dangerous break from previously policy and that’s why we are fighting to force them to end this practice.”
Traditionally, I.C.E. has avoided performing civil immigration arrests in so-called ‘sensitive zones’—churches, schools and courthouses, to name a few. While I.C.E. can make exceptions, New York has state-level laws protecting migrants’ rights.
“This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s recent unlawful and unconstitutional policy authorizing civil immigration arrests in and around New York State courthouses—a policy that disrupts the effective functioning of our courts, deters victims and witnesses from assisting law enforcement and vindicating their rights, hinders criminal prosecution, and undermines public safety,” the lawsuit states.
The Hill notes that James and Gonzalez believe I.C.E.’s civil arrests violate the state constitution. The complaint cites a 2018 agency decision to reverse its practice of avoiding courthouses, called the “Courthouse Civil Arrest Directive.”
“In issuing the directive, ICE failed to account for its harm to state judicial proceedings or to justify the marginal benefits of the Directive against such harm—important factors that any rational decision-maker should have considered,” the suit claims.
Ultimately, New York wants I.C.E. to be blocked from carrying out similar operations in the future.
However, an agency spokesperson told The New York Post that courthouse arrests have a long history and are often ICE’s last resort.
“ICE’s enforcement activities at courthouses are consistent with longstanding law enforcement practices nationwide,” said spokeswoman Rachel Yong Yow in a statement. “And courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails.”
NBC-New York notes that two Massachusetts counties filed a similar lawsuit in April; a judge ruled in their favor in June.