April 30, 2019 By Alexa Beyer
Council Member Robert Holden has come out in strong opposition to a new rule that will prevent ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants inside New York state courthouses unless the agency has a judicial warrant signed by a judge.
The rule, signed off by the New York State Office of Court Administration on April 17, has many supporters including attorneys and advocates at the Legal Aid Society and Make the Road New.
Holden, however, believes the rule will prevent ICE from doing its job, making it tougher for the agency to apprehend criminals.
“We must stop preventing ICE from doing its job to protect our country by limiting their role in and around courthouses,” Holden said in a statement.
The new rule requires ICE to obtain a judicial warrant signed by a federal judge showing probable cause that the target for arrest is deportable. It would then be reviewed by a New York state court official and a local judge.
“While many elected officials refuse to meet with ICE to hear its side of the story, I have met with the New York field office and remain in contact with its directors,” Holden said.
Holden added that in those meetings, office directors explained to him that the vast majority of courthouse arrests are of people who are either facing criminal charges or who have prior criminal convictions.
He cited arrests of individuals with extensive criminal histories including sexual abuse charges, multiple felony drug convictions, and criminal possession of firearms.
“I understand that some undocumented immigrants are simply seeking a better life here, but if they are fugitives or are committing crimes when they get here, nobody should be opposed to removing them from the country rather than paying for their attorneys and jail time with tax dollars,” he said.
Holden disagrees with reports about the number of ICE arrests in city courthouses.
Holden said that ICE had told him that it had only made 23 arrests in city court houses since October 2017 until present. That number is in stark contrast to other reports.
The Immigrant Defense Project reported 178 ICE arrests in New York state courthouses last year, the majority of which took place in New York City. Thirty-three arrests were in Queens.
Supporters of the rule change argue that ICE’s presence in courthouses deter many undocumented immigrants from making complaints or seeking relief in court.
“This new rule will truly help protect immigrant New Yorkers from the pervasive and rampant immigration enforcement at courthouses that we have seen on a regular basis since the start of the Trump administration,” said Janet Sabel, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society.
“In order for our judicial system to function properly, all immigrants – including our clients who have been accused of a crime, parents appearing in family court, and survivors of abuse, among others – must have unimpeded access to courts,” Sabel added.