A three-year, highly controversial practice by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now come to an end following passage of a bill in the New York State Legislature. The move was in response to the significant growth of undocumented foreign nationals being arrested at state and local courthouses since the Trump administration assumed power in 2017.
A new law places limitations on ICE
The Protect Our Courts Act would ensure that the targets of ICE can attend court proceedings without fear of being taken into custody for a non-immigration-related allegation. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law that bans ICE agents from arresting witnesses or family members coming into and going out of a courtroom, many of which do not hear immigration cases.
The legislation follows a ruling from a New York federal judge to stop ICE from making courthouse arrest.
The new law also mandates that courthouse staff deny entry to law enforcement whose sole purpose for being in the building is to make an arrest. However, the prohibition would not stop ICE from making detaining suspects outside the building.
The bill goes beyond the much-needed peace of mind for the undocumented when it comes to entering a federal courthouse. Surveys reveal that the fear of coming to court discourages them from resolving their legal issues, including orders of protection in domestic violence matters.
Upon enactment, lawyers and other community service providers can inform their clients that coming to court is safe once again. New York now joins Oregon, New Jersey, Seattle, and Albuquerque in protecting undocumented people from courthouse arrests.