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Brooklyn’s courts get updated guidelines for ICE arrests

May 18, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At courthouses like Brooklyn’s Criminal Court (pictured here) arrests by ICE increased more than 1,200 percent in New York from 2016 to 2017. Despite New York City’s status as a sanctuary city, federal agents cannot be banned from public buildings and continue to make arrests despite outcry from local elected officials. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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From U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and others, local officials have been calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stay out of the local courts for more than a year. 

They expressed concern that if immigrants, whether living here legally or not, are afraid to show up to court that justice cannot be properly served and an increased risk to public safety would be the result. However, the local courts feel that they cannot legally bar any federal officials from public buildings to keep arrests from happening. 

As a result, the NYS Office of Court Administration issued a set of guidelines that it expected ICE to follow — officers must check in with court officers or other officials when they arrive at the building to explain their purpose and judges can be notified, and they must not conduct any arrests inside a courtroom, which limited their actions to hallways. 

The new 2018 guidance, which was released to court officials and attorneys earlier this month, makes two changes.

The new guidance instructs court officers to check to see if ICE agents have a warrant, and to find out if that warrant was issued by a judge. Warrants are to be scanned and court officers are to inform judges if ICE agents had a warrant or not.

It also states that judges are not required to issue bench warrants when the court finds out that a defendant with an open criminal case is taken into ICE custody. Instead, they can direct the prosecutor to file a writ to produce the defendant from ICE custody. 

The Immigrant Defense Project put together a list of tips for defense attorneys to follow which focuses on the new guidance.

The Immigrant Defense Project recommends that defense attorneys check which type of warrant ICE agents have, whether it was issued by a judge or if it is an “administrative” warrant. Administrative warrants are not issued by a neutral arbiter, and are not subject to the probably clause standard, according to the project. 

It also suggests that attorneys make a record of what happens and include any warrant information and to indicate whether or not the judge was notified of a pending arrest and presented with a warrant or not.

If a client is taken into ICE custody, the project advices attorneys to contact the district attorney and the court to get the case re-calendared, for the bench warrant to be vacated and for the DA to writ the client back to criminal custody.

There has been a 1,200 percent increase in reports of ICE arrests and attempted arrests across all New York Courthouses in 2017, according to the project. Brooklyn is no different except locally ICE agents have not been making arrests in the Family Court or youth part.

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