Photo by Mark Hallum
City Councilman Robert Holden.

Councilman Robert Holden has railed against the Office of Court Administration’s (OCA) directive to require a judicial warrant from law enforcement officers, specifically ICE agents, in order to enter New York state courthouses.

The order, which was welcomed by advocates and attorneys at the Legal Aid Society and Make the Road New York along with several prominent candidates in the race for Queens District Attorney, would require law enforcement to identify themselves upon entering a courthouse, and a judge or court attorney to review the federal warrant before they are allowed to proceed.

“We must stop preventing ICE from doing its job to protect our country by limiting their role in and around courthouses. While many elected officials refuse to meet with ICE to hear its side of the story, I have met with the New York field office and remain in contact with its directors. They have explained to me that the vast majority of arrests at courthouses are of persons who have criminal convictions or charges and pending immigration detainers that have been ignored by the NYPD,” wrote Holden.

Holden cited six ICE courthouse arrests of immigrants who had prior convictions and charges including felony drug possession, sexual abuse, harassment, forcible touching, criminal possession of a firearm and grand larceny.

He also disputed reports of ICE’s involvement in city courts, saying that the New York field office told him they made just 23 arrests in court houses since October 2017 until present. On the other hand, the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) reported 33 ICE court arrests in 2018 in Queens alone.

Janet Sabel, attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society, praised the OCA for protecting these both defendants and victims.

In order for our judicial system to function properly, all immigrants – including our clients who have been accused of a crime, parents appearing in family court, and survivors of abuse, among others – must have unimpeded access to courts,” she said.

The IDP report that contains that figure of Queens ICE arrests also argues that ICE’s operations in court deter many immigrant survivors of domestic abuse from seeking relief in court. It shows a decrease in orders of protection for victims of domestic abuse corresponding to the rise in ICE’s courtroom operations in New York state over the past few years.

Asked how the councilman would address the negative effects of ICE’s presence in courts on the victims of such crimes, Holden’s office responded with skepticism over the report’s conclusions.

“Data trends that coincide with each other do not mean that there is a direct correlation,” his spokesperson wrote.

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