ICE agents have increasingly been showing up in courthouses around the country to arrest immigrants. These courthouse arrests have taken place at a wide variety of courts. Last Friday, ICE appeared at the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Courtroom. Apparently they were there to arrest a Chinese woman who may have been trafficked.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore released a statement saying she was “greatly concerned” about the incident. She added:
“We are committed to the safety and security of all New Yorkers who use our courthouses throughout the state. In a continuing dialogue, we have met with federal officials on a local and national level to convey our concerns and request that they treat courthouses as sensitive locations, similar to schools, hospitals and places of worship. We are meeting again next week with Homeland Security officials to further voice our concerns.”
This particular appearance by ICe has attracted a lot of attention because a WNYC Public Radio reporter was on hand when it happened. But it is far from the only such instance.
Similar intrusions of ICE into state and local courtrooms have been a plague nationwide since Donald Trump became president. While recent arrests have been characterized by Homeland Security as directed against dangerous gang members, ICE has been arresting immigrant women seeking family court protection and teenagers charged with minor crimes. In fact, while arrests generally are up 30% nationwide, arrests of immigrants with no criminal history have nearly doubled.
In April, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote that:
“We encourage the vulnerable to come to our courthouses for help. But immigration arrests, or the fear of arrests at or near courthouses, disrupt court activities and the lives of those seeking justice. The well-publicized immigration arrests at courthouses in Los Angeles and elsewhere have disrupted court business and deterred litigants. One judge said there was “near hysteria” among civil litigants recently when they thought immigration agents were about to raid a courthouse.”
”Some of the comments I’ve received after I sent my letter [to Sessions and Kelly] suggest that I am against enforcement of our immigration laws. I am not. I ask for sensible enforcement tactics that do not undermine due process, fairness and access to justice in our state court systems.”