Brooklyn Boro

ICE seen in Brooklyn courts despite calls to stay out

September 14, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At least once arrest (photographed here) was confirmed by an attorney from Brooklyn Defender Services. Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Defender Services
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Following the election of President Donald Trump it had become a normal occurrence for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to be seen arresting undocumented immigrants in local courts.

However, reports had become relatively quiet since Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a press conference and called upon ICE to stay out of New York courts last month.

That ended on Thursday when an attorney from Brooklyn Defender Services and a DNAInfo.com journalist reported seeing ICE agents inside the Brooklyn Criminal Court located at 120 Schermerhorn St. According to the DNAInfo report, three plain-clothed ICE agents were confirmed to have made at least one arrest.

“ICE IS NOW INSIDE **COURTROOMS** ON 8TH FLOOR OF 120 SCHERMERHORN. THREE OFFICERS. PLAIN CLOTHES. LATINO,” BDS attorney Scott Hechinger tweeted on Thursday.

Gonzalez has explained in the past that his desire to keep ICE agents is for the safety of everyone in Brooklyn. He said that when undocumented immigrants fear ICE agents they are less willing to testify in trials, which in turn, hurts public safety.

“The federal authorities claim they are making America safe again, but the truth is that their immigration enforcement policies are making all of us less safe,” Gonzalez said in a statement last month.

“We must not allow a large number of our residents to live in the shadows and stop cooperating with law enforcement,” Gonzalez said at the press conference in August.

Gonzalez wouldn’t comment on what happened Thursday, but he was driven to speak out publicly in August after William Siguencia Hurtado was nearly deported after he testified in two Brooklyn homicide cases. Hurtado’s testimony resulted in five convictions and he was only allowed to stay in the country after Gonzalez’s public outcry.

Thursday’s reports quickly drew sharp criticism from at least one Brooklyn politician. City councilmember Carlos Menchaca largely echoed statements that Gonzalez has made in the past.

“Public trust in our justice system is broken when immigration enforcement operates in or near court locations,” Menchaca said. “People who fear for their personal safety avoid reporting crimes, participating in investigations, and entering courts.

“The New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) must take immediate steps to prohibit access by ICE enforcement agents. This is especially important for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault who should never face the threat of immigration detention as they seek justice.”

OCA sent out a memorandum on April 26 that laid out its policy regarding ICE activity in local courthouses. According to the memorandum, ICE agents are allowed in the courthouse “provided that the conduct in no way disrupts or delays court operations, or compromises public safety or court decorum.”

As part of OCA protocol, ICE agents who do not have a specific warrant are required to inform local court officers of their presence and state their specific law enforcement purposes. Officers are not supposed to make an arrest inside a courtroom itself, but, like NYPD officers, they can make arrests in the hallways of the courthouse itself.

 


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