Salute new court rules, keep working for legislation

Earlier this month, immigrants and advocates celebrated when the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) adopted rules prohibiting ICE from arresting individuals in state courthouses without a judicial warrant or judicial order.

Before the change, ICE often entered courthouses with administrative warrants or no warrants at all. NY is the first state to take this important action.

While the new rule makes a huge improvement inside courts, ICE agents can still wait outside to try to pick up immigrants as they enter or leave. That is why the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and other advocates are urging the NY state legislature to pass the Protect Our Courts Act.

Why legislation is still needed

Protect Our Courts would keep ICE out of areas surrounding courthouses, making it more difficult to prey on immigrant families interacting with the legal system. The law would prevent ICE from using court appearances by defendants, witnesses, and others as an opportunity to detain undocumented immigrants.

Current ICE practice undermines the justice system by discouraging our undocumented neighbors from appearing in court. Examples of people who may be discouraged from attending court if they know ICE is unchecked are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other crimes and tenants or workers whose rights have been violated.

Assembly member Kevin Cahill is a cosponsor of the Protect Our Courts Act. The legislation is out of committee in the Assembly. The State Senate version has been in the rules committee without action for nearly a year.

The IDP has created a two-page description of the proposed law and how it would work with an additional page of talking points and two pages of case studies. Download as a PDF. (The image above is the first page of this document.) You can also download IDP’s three-page media release regarding the rule change; get the PDF.

Outside New York

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, a judge and a former court officer were indicted last week for helping to prevent an ICE arrest. The New York Times called it “a dramatic turn in the long-running clash between the Trump administration and state governments that have resisted its hard-line approach to immigration.” Read more.

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