The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency must stop conducting “raids” in New York courthouses and targeting crime victims and witnesses for removal proceedings, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Thursday.
Instances of arrests and attempted arrests by ICE in courts have spiked approximately fivefold this year compared to 2016, according to a news release issued by Gonzalez and Schneiderman on Thursday. As a result, a growing number of crime victims and witnesses have expressed reluctance to cooperate with authorities due to fear of being deported, they said.
“The federal authorities claim they are making America safe again, but the truth is that their immigration enforcement policies are making all of us less safe,” Gonzalez said in the release. “We see arrests by ICE spiking in our courthouses, including Family Court and courts dedicated to helping human trafficking victims and those with mental health issues.”
Gonzalez said ICE’s current policies under the Trump administration need to stop or “a large number” of New York residents will “live in the shadows” and stop cooperating with law enforcement.
ICE should designate courthouses as “sensitive locations” and not carry out enforcement actions there, which is how it treats “sensitive locations” such as schools, medical facilities and places of worship, Gonzalez said.
Targeting immigrants at courthouses undermines the criminal justice system and also threatens public safety, Schneiderman said in the release.
“Immigrants will be less likely to serve as witnesses or report crimes — and that leaves us all at risk,” he said.
Steven Choi, director of the New York Immigration Coalition said the policies instill fear among people who could have “case-saving information.”
According to the release, a recent survey by the Immigrant Defense Project found there were approximately 60 arrests and attempted arrests in New York State courts so far this year, with at least eight arrests in Brooklyn. Only 11 arrests were reported statewide in 2016 and 14 in 2015.
As ICE operations have expanded, the agency is arresting individuals in Family Court, Human Trafficking Intervention Court and Mental Health Treatment Court, according to the release. Those arrested included lawful residents who had Green Cards, a domestic violence victim and people who appeared on low-level misdemeanors, the release said.