The New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) issued new rules on Wednesday which are intended to curtail federal immigration officials’ ability to arrest undocumented individuals in state courthouses. Under the new rules, immigration officials are required to have a federal judicial warrant or order to a New York judge or court attorney before they are able to execute an arrest.
Prior to the new rules, ICE agents were appearing at New York courthouses with administrative warrants in order to execute arrests. These administrative warrants are what ICE typically uses in their operations and do not require the signature of a judge. The warrant is issued by immigration officers and it names an allegedly deportable non-citizen. The warrant then directs various federal immigration enforcement agencies to arrest that individual. However, legally, it is not a real warrant. It is not reviewed by a judge or any neutral party to determine if it is based on probable cause.
Under the new rules, the administrative warrants do not give ICE officials the right to arrest or detain undocumented individuals. Instead, ICE officials must present a judicial warrant which has been reviewed by a judge for probable cause. Unlike administrative warrants, these warrants will have the individual’s name, along with a judge’s signature.
Under the Trump administration, the number of immigrant arrests by ICE in New York State courthouses has increased. In 2016, prior to the administration’s takeover, there were 16 arrests in New York state courthouses. Just last year, there were 178 arrests. A majority of those arrests occurred in New York City. In response to the uptick in arrests, the Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks was quoted as saying “Judges can’t do their jobs unless people come to court.” Many of the arrestees are in the courthouses for not only their legal matters but, also, as witnesses in the matters of others. It is the hope that immigrants will no longer be afraid to visit courts at the risk of being subject to deportation.
Although the new rules are a start, they are far from perfect. First, the rules do not prevent arrests made outside of the courthouse. Additionally, it doesn’t prohibit ICE officials from communicating with New York court personnel. With that being said, these issues and more can be solved through legislation. The state legislature is considering the “Protect Our Courts Act,” which would outlaw civil arrests of people attending, headed to, or coming from court proceedings in state courthouses unless the ICE officials have a proper warrant. Many legislatures and the New York Bar Association have voiced their support for the bill.
If you or a loved one is a non-citizen who has been accused of a crime or is facing deportation, it is imperative that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York immigration lawyer. The immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP are experienced in helping non-citizens with various immigration matters, including deportation defense and immigration eligibility with a criminal history. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers or our New Jersey immigration lawyer, call (212) 267-2555.