Despite the fact that the chief justices of the California Supreme Court, the Connecticut Supreme Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court (so far) have taken the extraordinary step of condemning ICE’s reprehensible tactic of arresting immigrants at courthouses, federal immigration agents deplorably persist, this time stalking immigrants at a human trafficking court in Queens, New York:
A WNYC reporter was in the building when Legal Aid lawyers huddled frantically in the hallway: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had been spotted in the building. The lawyers approached one of the agents, and he acknowledged there were warrants for several people in the building.
The lawyers said they learned from the judge that ICE wanted a young Chinese woman in the Human Trafficking Intervention Courtroom. They said she'd been charged with working illegally as a masseuse, and was about to receive an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal after completing a program with a community group — a goal of human trafficking court.
The attorneys were able to protect their client by asking the judge for bail, and bought enough time for her to leave the building without being detained.
According to WNYC, an ICE spokesperson attempted to justify the arrests of the three individuals who were taken into custody that day by saying that they were apprehended outside the courthouse, not inside. That doesn’t change the fact that ICE is not only further attacking victims, but also ignoring pleas from judges and others to stop immigration operations at courthouses, period.
"We are committed to the safety and security of all New Yorkers who use our courthouses throughout the state," said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. "In a continuing dialogue, we have met with federal officials on a local and national level to convey our concerns and request that they treat courthouses as sensitive locations, similar to schools, hospitals and places of worship. We are meeting again next week with Homeland Security officials to further voice our concerns."
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said agents have "sunk to new lows of moral depravity” by stalking a human trafficking court, and is urging Chief Judge DiFiore to ban ICE from her court:
"Contrary to their repeated claims that they pursue only those who are a threat to public safety, ICE agents are now targeting survivors of human trafficking, some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers," she said, adding that stationing these agents inside New York's courthouses is "a shameful, predatory tactic that will make our city less safe and devastate the trust we have worked so hard to build in the immigrant community."
Back in April, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye penned an op-ed blasting Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and Department of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly for trampling on public trust of the court system by refusing to treat courthouses as “sensitive areas”—like churches and schools—and off limits to federal immigration agents:
“We encourage the vulnerable to come to our courthouses for help. But immigration arrests, or the fear of arrests at or near courthouses, disrupt court activities and the lives of those seeking justice. The well-publicized immigration arrests at courthouses in Los Angeles and elsewhere have disrupted court business and deterred litigants. One judge said there was “near hysteria” among civil litigants recently when they thought immigration agents were about to raid a courthouse.”
”Some of the comments I’ve received after I sent my letter [to Sessions and Kelly] suggest that I am against enforcement of our immigration laws. I am not. I ask for sensible enforcement tactics that do not undermine due process, fairness and access to justice in our state court systems.”
Numerous reports from local law enforcement departments in California, Texas, and elsewhere have shown that reported incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault from immigrant communities have gone down, not because rates are lowering, but because people are afraid of exposing their legal status to police and risking deportation.