In Policy Shift, New York Courts Move to Stop Warrantless ICE Arrests

By Kevin Deutsch

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will no longer be able to arrest New Yorkers inside state courthouses without warrants or judicial orders—a policy shift aimed at preventing authorities from using courthouses as “hunting grounds,” immigrant rights advocates said.

The policy change, detailed in a one-page directive issued by the New York State Office of Court Administration Wednesday night, states in part: “Arrests by agents of U.S. lmmigration and Customs Enforcement may be executed inside a New York State courthouse only pursuant to a judicial warrant or judicial order authorizing the arrest. A ‘judicial warrant’ or ‘judicial order’ is a warrant or order issued by a federal judge or federal magistrate judge. A UCS judge or court attorney shall review the warrant or order to confirm compliance with this requirement prior to any such arrest.

“Absent leave of the court under extraordinary circumstances (e.g., extradition orders), no law enforcement action may be taken by a law enforcement agency in a courtroom.”

The directive was first reported by the Queens Daily Eagle.

ICE arrests in and around New York courts have increased dramatically under President Donald Trump, rising 1700 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to an analysis by the Immigrant Defense Project.

Immigrant rights advocates, who have criticized ICE for its courthouse enforcement practices, lauded the rule change.

In a statement responding to the directive, the Legal Aid Society said Trump’s arrival in the Oval Office “emboldened ICE agents who routinely use state courthouses as hunting grounds to trap immigrants seeking to vindicate their rights in court, leading to a widespread chilling effect.”

“This new rule will truly help protect immigrant New Yorkers from the pervasive and rampant immigration enforcement at courthouses that we have seen on a regular basis since the start of the Trump administration,” Legal Aid attorney-in-chief Janet Sabel said.

Terry Lawson, immigration unit director for Bronx Legal Services, also hailed the directive as transformative.

“We can now advise the women, men, and children we represent that ICE cannot arrest them in New York state courts without a warrant with their name on it, signed by a judge,” Lawson said in a statement.

Sasha Gonzales contributed reporting.

About Kevin Deutsch 265 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, drugs, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Post, among other publications. His numerous television appearances include spots on CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN's BookTV. He has also been featured in The New Yorker. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.