New York City advocacy groups are demanding Immigration Customs and Enforcement resume in-person hearings after the agency suspended them amid protests outside a Manhattan courthouse on Monday.
The decision to stop transporting detainees to the Varick Street facility was made because of several attempts by “certain groups” to disrupt the agency’s operations in the city by “spreading misinformation and advocating violence against ICE employees,” an ICE spokeswoman had said.
“This decision was made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees,” the spokeswoman added in an emailed statement.
But immigrant advocacy groups argue the move is unnecessary and in violation of the Constitution.
“By depriving individuals their long-awaited day in court, ICE is crushing their fundamental right to due process and eviscerating all traces of fairness from court proceedings,” the Immigrant Defense Project said in a separate emailed statement. “ICE’s new policy will also cut off immigrants from their attorneys, by stripping them of their ability to meet with counsel before and after appearances.”
The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project — made up of legal providers with Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders and The Legal Aid Society — asserted that the decision is an extension of President Donald Trump’s recent assertion that detainees do not deserve to go before an immigration judge.
“The decision by ICE to eliminate in-person appearances in court is a direct attack on people who have been waiting for months in detention for their opportunity to meet with attorneys, assert their legal right to remain in this country, and see their loved ones,” the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project said.
A contingent of about two dozen protesters, self-named Occupy ICE NYC, forced the closure of the Varick Street immigration court on Monday, and all scheduled cases for that day were postponed.
Since then, ICE has been conducting court proceedings via audio and video teleconferences, even as Occupy ICE NYC agreed to move away from the garage entrance on Tuesday and ended their protest on Wednesday, according to the Immigrant Defense Project and New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
On Thursday, an ICE spokeswoman said the agency would continue the suspension of in-person hearings “for the foreseeable future.”