Law Talk: Protect Our Courts Act

Law Talk

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The State Legislature has passed S.425A/A.2176A, a statute blocking Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents from making arrests in New York courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order. Specifically, it prevents ICE from detaining individuals at court for unrelated matters.

The legislation passed the Assembly on Monday and the Senate on Wednesday. It must be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to become a law.

The goal of the legislation is to maintain open access to the courts for everyone in New York, particularly undocumented immigrants, without the threat of deportation. “We cannot allow our courthouses to become a hunting ground for federal agents attempting to round up immigrant New Yorkers,” said sponsor and State Senator Brad Hoylman.

According to the Immigrant Defense Project, ICE arrests spike by 1,700% since 2016. Although the courts have issued a directive prohibiting warrantless arrests inside courthouses, nearly half of ICE’s 2019 arrests occurred after that prohibition was put in place.

The law would prevent a chilling effect on the integrity of the justice system. Proponents say that both citizens and immigrants will be less likely to head to court—even to answer for simple traffic charges, to testify, or to support a family member as a spectator—beneath the looming shadow of ICE.

According to sponsor and Assemblymember Michaelle Solages—who represents the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus—“We have seen federal ICE agents make a concerted effort to use courthouses as a means of entrapment, which in turn has created a hostile environment for individuals seeking recourse from New York courts.”

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