ALBANY — A new law in New York blocks federal immigration enforcement officials from making arrests at courthouses without a judicial warrant.
Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday signed the Protect Our Courts Act, which prohibits Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from arresting anyone going to or leaving a court proceeding, whether they are a defendant, witness or a relative, unless they have a signed warrant.
Courthouse arrests by ICE officials dramatically increased under President Trump and a federal judge ordered the agency to stop the practice earlier this year. The measure enshrines the ban into law.
“This new law is a powerful rebuke to the outgoing Trump administration and their immigration policies that have undermined our judicial system,” said sponsor Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “After today, New York’s courts will no longer be hunting grounds for federal agents attempting to round-up and initiate deportation proceedings against immigrants.”
According to a report by the Immigrant Defense Project, ICE made 1,700% more arrests in 2019 in and around courthouses than they did in 2016, before Trump took office.
While the New York State Court System issued a directive prohibiting warrantless arrests inside courthouses, nearly half of the 2019 ICE busts occurred after that directive was in place, according to the group.
“The individual rights granted to all New Yorkers by the U.S. Constitution should not be dependent upon who holds the office of the presidency,” said sponsor Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Nassau). “There is a real and tangible fear among the immigrant community that the courts are not safe from ICE intervention, often creating a dangerous barrier for justice.”
The measure doesn’t impede an arrest warrant from being authorized by a judge. Instead it blocks immigration-related courthouse arrests that are warrant-less or based on administrative warrants.
The new law is the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between the feds and the Empire State over undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year, the Trump administration attempted to penalize the state by cutting off residents from expedited travel programs after New York allowed undocumented people the ability to apply for drivers licenses.
The feds backed down after admitting other states already have similar laws on the books.
More recently, Cuomo has railed against the Trump administration’s COVID vaccine program, alleging that immigration authorities could gain access to data requested by federal health officials about who is receiving doses.
“Unlike this federal government, New York has always protected our immigrant communities,” Cuomo said. “This legislation will ensure every New Yorker can have their day in court without fear of being unfairly targeted by ICE or other federal immigration authorities.”
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