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Protesters force Manhattan immigration court to close, reschedule cases

The protesters have been camped out in front of the building’s garage for five days.

Demonstrators camp out on Monday in front of

Demonstrators camp out on Monday in front of a garage they believe is used by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport detainees to and from the Varick Street Immigration Court in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A small contingent of protesters forced the closing of a Manhattan immigration court on Monday, forcing scheduled cases to be put off, according to immigration attorneys.

A letter sent out by the court’s administrator on Sunday evening to the American Immigration Lawyers Association asked them to let their members know that cases would not be heard at 201 Varick St. on Monday “due to the protests,” Myriam Sanchez-Hildenbrand, the group’s liaison with the court, confirmed.

About two dozen protesters who set up a small camp in front of the building’s garage said they’d been there for five days.

Sanchez-Hildenbrand said it wasn’t immediately clear when court would resume and that cases, which often take months to get on the calendar, will have to be rescheduled.

A spokeswoman for ICE said in an email the court was closed on Monday “Due to attempts by certain groups to disrupt ICE operations through spreading misinformation and advocating violence against ICE employees” and that “This decision was made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees.”

Brooklyn resident Marisa Holmes, 32, had been protesting with the group and said while their goal was to stop people from being deported, it was “unfortunate that people can’t go to their bond hearings.

“We didn’t make that decision,” she said. “It’s just terrible that ICE is using people that way and creating more harm.”

She said the group chose to block the two garage entrances on each side of the building, but that they weren’t blocking other business from being held there (the building is also used as a postal office and passport agency). They plastered the side of the building with signs: “#AbolishIce” and “I really do care, don’t you?” as a nod to the jacket worn by first lady Melania Trump.

“It’s a symbolic site,” Holmes said. “We want to make sure people are aware that these kinds of processes happen here . . . We don’t want people to be detained or deported so if we can impact that as directly as possible with our bodies and numbers, then we’ll do that.”

A representative with the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(With Nicole Brown)

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