Under the Trump administration, illegal immigrants in the US live in fear. An increase in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids has caused a rise in immigration-related arrests. Across the US, raids brought ICE agents into homes and businesses in search of illegal aliens. Although the raids were country-wide, New York City experienced some of the strongest effects of the raids. Now, New York courts are ready to fight back against ICE arrests.
The Story Behind the ICE Arrests
Trump gave ICE officers license to go after illegal immigrants throughout the US. Although some cities (like New York City) became sanctuary cities, ICE arrests still occurred in those cities. The agents took an active role in finding and arresting anyone who might be in the country illegally.
To find people, ICE raided homes and businesses. In some homes, they would take everyone in for fingerprinting. Then, they would arrest anyone who might be an illegal immigrant. It separated families, and the raids were traumatic for everyone involved, innocent or guilty.
Making Court Arrests
In New York, the number of ICE arrests was quite high. Many of those arrests weren’t in homes or businesses. Instead, they were in court. According to the spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, there were 52 court arrests by ICE agents. This is a 900% increase from previous years. Since early 2017, the Trump administration pushed to increase the number of arrests in courts around the country. With a large population of illegal immigrants, New York City was stricken by the policy change.
Since January 2017, ICE has entered US courtrooms 79 times. The ICE arrests that occurred in court didn’t only affect the immigrants that the agents took. In addition to affecting the immigrants, the arrests also hurt the courts. Everyone in the courtroom experiences the effects of these raids. Often, ICE ushers out the immigrants with force. It puts court personnel and criminal lawyers in an awkward position and also put everyone at a risk of injury.
Fighting the Arrests
New York has never been a state to stand down. In response to the negative impact of the ICE arrests, New York lawmakers want to make some changes. They want to limit the access that ICE has to New York courts. In doing so, they could protect immigrants and themselves from the harmful effects of the arrests.
In order to do this, the state needs to make a few changes. There are several suggestions made by the Office of Court Administration that could help accomplish this goal:
1. Limit cooperation of court employees with immigration law enforcement
One of the proposed suggestions to fight ICE involvement is to limit the ability of court employees to provide information to civil immigration officers. For example, an officer of the court currently reveals citizenship or immigration information in regards to individuals involved in a court case. The change would require that the employee only offers limited help. By limiting their cooperation, the state could hamper ICE raids. Finding illegal immigrants would be much more difficult.
As of now, New York court employees go above and beyond their requirement to help ICE agents. The Office of the Court Administration (OCA) proposes that employees stop doing so. Instead of going above and beyond state and federal law, employees would provide the bare minimum.
2. Limit the power of ICE agents to enter and exit courtrooms
When an ICE agent enters a US courthouse, court personnel allows them to wander about. However, the OCA wants to prohibit this. They propose that court personnel should not allow ICE agents to enter courtrooms and hallways. In fact, OCA proposes that the state prohibits employees from allowing this. This would restrict ICE’s ability to apprehend immigrants who are in court.
3. Require warrants for courthouse arrests
Another suggestion in the OCA report is to require judicial warrants for ICE arrests. If ICE agents want to enter a courthouse and arrest someone, then they would need a warrant. This would prevent ICE from disrupting the court when there is no legal basis to do so. In some of the interruptions, ICE has no basis for disturbing the court. This law would mean that ICE has probable cause to believe that an individual is here illegally.
4. Presiding judges would need to warn targets about ICE intervention
The OCA also wants judges to warn immigrants about their impending arrest. Instead of being arrested with no warning, the target on an ICE investigation would have a warning. According to the OCA, this would reduce the negative impact of the raids.
5. Reduce the frequency that illegal immigrants need to go to court
In an effort to minimize court arrests, the OCA suggests that the state limits unnecessary court appearances by illegal immigrants. This would give ICE agents less of a reason to disturb the court.
Whether the OCA recommendations become laws remains to be seen. If they do, this could mean that illegal immigrants get more protection in New York City.