ICE detains immigrant at Queens courthouse, attorneys say

An immigrant was detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents at a Queens courthouse on Tuesday — the third such arrest in the city in less than a week, according to the Legal Aid Society.

Attorneys with Legal Aid and  Queens Law Associates picketed outside  the Queens County Criminal Court building, located at 125-01 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens, after ICE agents showed up at the courthouse ahead of the man’s scheduled appearance, a spokeswoman for a union representing Legal Aid attorneys said.

The man was taken into custody around 1:15 p.m. immediately following his appearance in court, per the spokeswoman.

A request for comment from ICE on the man’s detainment was not immediately returned.

On Monday, Legal Aid and Bronx Defenders attorneys walked out of the Bronx County Hall of Justice on East 161st Street and Morris Avenue after an immigrant was detained by ICE there.

Rayon Smith, who is from Jamaica, was detained by ICE agents just minutes after his case was dismissed, according to Legal Aid staff attorney Casey Dalporto. He was later released after a notice to appear before an immigration judge was issued, ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow said on Monday.

Smith had been charged with misdemeanor assault after a fight in February, in which both he and the other person involved were arrested, Dalporto said. He has no prior criminal record.

Smith, who came to the United States in January 2013, remained in the country after his nonimmigrant visa expired, Yong Yow said Monday evening. The agency had filed a detainer request with the city following his Feb. 19 arrest but it was not honored and he was released from police custody, she added.

The Legal Aid Society, however, said Smith has a pending green card application through his wife, who is a citizen, from 2015. Smith, a father of three children, told his lawyers ICE released him after they realized they issued the warrant in error, per Legal Aid.

​Smith was given work authorization in 2015 and has been working at a luxury condominium building in the city for over two years, the Legal Aid Society alleged. He nearly lost his job following his detainment by ICE on Monday, the nonprofit said.

The two arrests come just days after a Panamanian man was detained at the Brooklyn criminal courthouse. Attorneys also protested after that arrest.

Between 2016 and 2017, the Immigrant Defense Project recorded a 1,200 percent increase in ICE courthouse arrests and attempted arrests in New York State. So far in 2018, the advocacy group has reported at least 25 courthouse arrests and three attempted arrests in New York City, per the Legal Aid Society.

In response to the uptick, public defenders across the city are demanding ICE agents be barred from carrying out warrants on New York court property.

“We expect the Office of Court Administration to protect our clients and their right to due process. Our call to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement from our courthouses has the support of multiple defense organizations, district attorneys, legislators, community groups and immigrant communities themselves” said Bret Taylor, the financial secretary/treasurer for the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.

The presence of ICE agents at courthouses is “causing a chaotic environment,” according to Dalporto.

“My client in this case was also a victim,” she added. “His case was dismissed and he’s still a victim in the other case.”

ICE has said previously that agents are complying with court policies and that the agency “makes efforts to exhaust all other avenues before effecting a courthouse arrest.”