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Attorney General James’ amicus brief says ICE makes our courts less safe

May 27, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Attorney General Letitia James filed an amicus brief on Tuesday as part of a coalition of 14 attorneys general who are hoping to keep the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement out of courthouses unless they have a judicial warrant or court order.

The coalition has urged the courts to uphold a preliminary injunction filed by the Massachusetts district courts and has challenged the legality of the federal government’s expanded policy of arresting immigrants in and around New York courthouses.

“ICE’s continued efforts to arrest immigrants at or near state courthouses endanger us all and threaten every New Yorker’s safety,” said Attorney General James. “These unconstitutional arrests have skyrocketed since President Trump took office, as the president has pushed an anti-immigrant agenda for purely political reasons.

“ICE’s unlawful arrests clearly trample all over states’ rights, obstruct true justice from being carried out, and unnecessarily threaten immigrants for cheap political points, which is why our coalition will continue to fight them every step of the way,” James continued.

Since 2016, the number of ICE agents spotted in and around local courthouses has been common. Initial reports of arrests lead the New York State Court System to issue guidelines, such as requiring ICE agents to identify themselves to court officers upon arrival, to try to avoid pandemonium in courtrooms.

James was joined by local elected officials in Brooklyn, including District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who said that actions by ICE make all immigrants scared to come to the courthouse and explained that it has kept important witnesses from testifying in cases.

James and Gonzalez have filed their own lawsuit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security to challenge the federal government’s authority. The suit seeks a three-year halt to civil immigration arrests by ICE agents inside state courts, and called those arrests a major disruption.

“By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned — or never pursued — making communities less safe,” read a statement issued by the AG’s Office.

When the federal government filed a motion to dismiss James and Gonzalez’s lawsuit, the motion was dismissed by Hon. Jed Rakoff, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Tuesday’s amicus brief is filed in conjunction with a lawsuit filed by the Middlesex County and Suffolk County district attorneys from Massachusetts. Their argument is that the federal government’s policy of arresting noncitizens, even those with protected legal status, is a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the 10th Amendment, and the right to access the courts, which they say is protected by the 1st, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments.

The preliminary injunction was filed successfully, but the federal government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

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