Friday, June 23, 2017

NY Courts Need Bold Plan to Protect Immigrants from ICE

The New York Court System's Administrative Office and its Chief Judge need to act swiftly, and be more bold, in establishing a Plan to protect New Yorkers from Courthouse Interference from Federal Immigration Agents, Elected Officials and Activists said Thursday.

Councilwoman Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito blasted the Office of Court Administration (OCA), which oversees all Courts in the State, for not establishing a Plan to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents from Courthouse Interference. Mark-Viverito met with the State's Chief Judge Janet DeFiore more than a month ago to discuss ICE Agents in the City's Courthouses, but they have "not taken the appropriate action."

"I call on ​[OCA] to defend the integrity of the court system, and take a position," she said at the Rally on the steps of City Hall, adding that "arrests are a shameful, predatory tactic and it makes our city less safe."

The push comes days after ICE Agents entered a Dedicated Court for Victims of Human Trafficking in Queens, with plans to detain a Woman who had been Arrested for Prostitution, Officials said. ​Attorneys from Legal Aid were Alerted to the Agents' presence from the Judge, and they asked for Bail for the Defendant, who was Arrested for working Illegally as a Masseuse. DeFiore released a Statement last week to WNYC saying she was "deeply disturbed" by the presence of ICE Agents in Human Trafficking Court.

Tina Luongo, the Attorney in Charge of the Criminal Practice at Legal Aid, said he and his Colleagues are currently looking at the "intersection of city and state law" for ways to keep Courts Free from Federal Interference. They don't have a clear Plan yet for how they could continue to Protect Undocumented New Yorkers in Court. But Luongo, along with Mark-Viverito, Councilmen Carlos Menchaca, and Rory Lancman, hope to have more Conversations with the state's Court Office. ​"When ICE walked into that court it changed the calculus for so many people who are immigrants in our city, trying to make a life for their families," Luongo said.

Hamra Ahmad, the Legal Director for Her Justice, says Fear from the current Political Climate has created a "rippling effect" for their Clients. They work mostly with Immigration, Family, and Matrimonial Law, but Clients have been afraid to go to Court, even if they have Temporary Immigration Status or if it's for something not related to Immigration. "In the past we used to be able to reassure them in ways that we can't any more, and they have to take calculated risks for themselves and their families," she said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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