Brooklyn leads city in ICE arrests and sightings so far this year
There were 112 reported arrests or sightings of ICE officers in and around New York courthouses through October.
Federal immigration arrests and sightings in and around New York courthouses have reached triple digits for the third year in a row — though they have decreased since 2018, according to a new report by an immigrants’ rights organization that tracks Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity statewide.
There were 112 reported arrests or sightings of ICE officers at courthouses around the state during the first 10 months of 2019 as opposed to 219 in all of 2018, according to the report by the Immigrant Defense Project. At least 69 arrests and sightings so far this year occurred in New York City.
So far this year, Brooklyn led the city with 23 ICE sightings and arrests in or around courthouses. Queens had the next most at 22. Manhattan had 12; the Bronx had 10 and Staten Island had two. IDP could not immediately confirm how many of these were arrests and how many were sightings.
Seventy-five percent of 2018’s ICE arrests and sightings at New York courthouses took place within the five boroughs, with the highest number occurring in Brooklyn at 35 arrests. There were 32 in Queens, IDP reported. By October 2018, there had already been 180 sightings and arrests in and around courthouses citywide, according to the report.
Advocates, including some local district attorneys and several lawmakers, say ICE’s presence discourages people from going to court — even if they are crime victims or witnesses, or if they are involved in litigation or family disputes.
“We know, without doubt, that our clients are afraid to come forward,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families. “That produces a chilling effect, which means victims are not accessing the protections they need and deserve.”
The IDP submitted a brief Tuesday in support of a lawsuit filed in September by public defenders and the New York State Attorney General Letitia James against ICE, arguing courthouse arrests do not make the public safer and impair the court’s ability to function successfully.
“The federal government’s systematic racist policies that target Latinx and black New Yorkers and other communities of color is inhumane and unjust and it’s time to put a stop to it once and for all,” said Alisa Wellek, executive director of IDP.
A possible explanation of the lower numbers from 2018 is an Office of Court Administration directive issued in April that requires ICE agents to present a signed judicial warrant before making an immigration arrest inside a courthouse — though the directive did not affect the agency’s ability to make arrests outside courthouses.
“I would hope [the OCA directive] has an effect,” said Terry Lawson, supervising policy attorney for IDP. “But we’re continuing to see the court itself used by ICE.”
OCA confirmed seven arrests by ICE within courthouses so far in 2019. In each of the arrests, ICE agents presented a signed judicial warrant, an OCA spokesperson said. At least one of the arrests occurred in Queens Criminal Court in June, and another took place in Brooklyn Criminal Court in April.
OCA was not able to share information about the latest ICE courthouse arrest, which took place between Sept. 13 — the last time the Eagle sought ICE arrest information from OCA — and Nov. 5.
OCA does not track arrests outside of courthouses, where ICE agents most often arrest people, including defendants, victims, witnesses and litigants
Attorneys and advocates shared photos with the Eagle of an in-progress ICE arrest outside Queens Criminal Court in January.
In April, a Queens mother was arrested outside Queens Family Court and detained in a New Jersey jail, where she developed a severe stomach condition amid a jailhouse quarantine. She was separated from her children for months and transported to Louisiana to be deported before a judge issued a stay on her deportation.
“This is a particularly harrowing example of the human devastation caused when ICE enters the courthouse,” Make the Road Action Managing Director Daniel Altschuler told the Eagle in June.
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