New York’s courts have received some unexpected visitors over the past month: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Since the February expansion of ICE’s enforcement efforts by the Trump administration, ICE has been seeking ways to remove individuals targeted for deportation. With New York and other states failing to respond to ICE detainers, the agency has decided to try another route, waiting for individuals in the courts. Rachel Yong Yow, a spokeswoman for ICE, did not dispute the new technique used by ICE, and stated that agents generally appear at the courthouses only after they have exhausted other options.
The New York City court system began tracking ICE’s interactions with litigants within city courthouses in February. Out of six encounters, there were three arrests made. The visits come at a time when New York and other states have not cooperated with ICE’s efforts to detain individuals. ICE officials claim that because of the lack of cooperation, this is their only option for detaining individuals that have been ordered to be removed from the country.
Although New York has done much to impede the efforts of immigration officials, the head of the New York Court Officers Association, Dennis Quirk, has directed court officers to give their full cooperation to ICE agents. Quirk stated that he does not believe that ICE can be barred from entering the court houses, but did recognize that judges have complete discretion over what happens within the courtrooms. It is not uncommon for other agencies to enter New York’s courts, as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives appear in the public areas of courthouses on a daily basis. However, many New York City judges do not like ICE agents being at the court houses and have gone out of their way to make that clear. For this reason, ICE agents often just wait outside the courts, on the street, as a result.
The recent visits expand on the need for individuals to seek legal assistance. A lawyer will be able to advise you as to what your best options are if you are called into court. It is important to recognize that ICE is visiting the courthouse to detain individuals who are there for things from family law cases to criminal hearings. Individuals in fear of deportation should always avoid any criminal activity that can place them in front of the courts. Although New York has made efforts to protect these individuals, ICE is attempting to find any path around New York’s protections.
With immigration policies transforming rapidly under the Trump administration, it is now more important than ever for non-citizens to know their legal rights and available pathways to legal residence or citizenship. If you are concerned about the legal status of yourself or your loved ones and are seeking guidance on your immigration matter, contact experienced New York immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP. With two immigration law offices located in New York, New York and Metro Park, New Jersey, the firm’s attorneys are available to provide non-citizens in the tristate area the legal representation they need. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 1 (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.