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Report: Number of ICE arrests in Brooklyn courts soars

New York courts becoming ‘traps for immigrants’

January 28, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A report issued by the Immigrant Defense Project on Monday outlines an increase in arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in New York courthouses by 1,700 percent in the year 2018.

IDP documented 202 reports of ICE arrests and sightings in all of New York’s courthouses last year, a 1,700 percent increase since early 2017, according to the 15-page report. About 75 percent of ICE arrests statewide have occurred in New York City — and Brooklyn had the most arrests and sightings in any of the five boroughs.

“This report shows that ICE is expanding surveillance and arrests in courthouses across the state, creating a crisis for immigrants who need access to the courts,” said Alisa Wellek, IDP executive director. “We cannot allow ICE to turn New York’s courts into traps for immigrants. The New York state Legislature must act now to pass the Protect Our Courts Act to prevent ICE from continuing these harmful practices.”

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The report not only notes the increase in arrests but also discusses the often violent and brutal tactics that take place during the arrests.

According to the report, arrests often involve up to 10 agents to make a single arrest. There are reports of suspected immigrants being tackled to the ground, family members slammed up against walls and dragged from their cars.

One event outlined in the report occurred outside of the Brooklyn Supreme Court, where a man was speaking with his attorney when plainclothes ICE agents suddenly surrounded them, separated the man from his attorney and made an arrest without identifying themselves. According to the report, one of the several bystanders called 911 to report the incident as a kidnapping.

In another incident mentioned in the report, a woman thought her son had been kidnapped after ICE agents grabbed him outside Brooklyn Criminal Court and dragged him to an unmarked car. When the woman asked the agents if they were from immigration, they allegedly told her, “No.” She didn’t find out what had happened until her son called from an ICE facility later that day.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has often called upon ICE agents to stay out of the court, but so far those calls have proved ineffective. There were 48 ICE agent sightings in Brooklyn courts in 2018, followed by 35 arrests, according to the IDP report.

Gonzalez has hired two immigration attorneys to work with assistant district attorneys to help avoid turning immigrants over to ICE on minor charges.

The Office of Court Administration enacted a policy in early 2018 as a response to the increase arrests that requires ICE agents to check in with court personnel and inform them why they are there. Agents are not allowed to make arrests in courtrooms but are allowed in the courthouse hallways.

An OCA spokesperson said the following in a statement:

“In January of 2018, as a direct result of our communications with ICE officials on the national and regional levels, ICE issued a formalized policy regarding potential arrest situations in courthouses.

“Their new policy, particularly regarding noncriminal courthouses and court proceedings, effectively acknowledged that they will limit themselves to criminal proceedings. Agents showing up in courthouses increasingly have been effecting arrests with Judicial warrants.

“Additionally, as a result of our continued communication with them, they have effectively changed their tactics shying away from making arrests inside court facilities. Arrests inside of courthouses declined by over 50 percent from 2017 to 2018 from 40 to 13 in New York City and 54 to 26 statewide.”

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