FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019
Attorney General’s Press Office
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez released the following statements after Judge Jed Rakoff, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, today ruled that a lawsuit by the New York Attorney General’s Office and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office could move forward against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The lawsuit challenges the Trump Administration’s practice of making civil immigration arrests outside of state courthouses in a manner that interferes with the state’s administration of justice.
“Today’s ruling ensures we will get our day in court to make the case that ICE’s policies are nothing more than illegal maneuvers that harm our state’s ability to provide justice through the court system,” Attorney General James said. “Our state courts cannot function with ICE attempting to arrest parties, witnesses, and victims who rely on our courts for relief. While the president and his Administration continuously look for new ways to intimidate immigrants and punish New York’s sovereign status, we will continue fighting to ensure justice and public safety for all New Yorkers.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez added, “I am grateful that the Court recognized the merits of this lawsuit and allowed it to proceed, finding that ICE’s incursions in and around our courthouses violate long-standing laws and practices. This policy has a chilling effect in immigrant communities and discourages cooperation with law enforcement — thus jeopardizing public safety. I look forward to continuing litigation of this case, so this misguided practice by the federal government is halted once and for all.”
In September, Attorney General James and DA Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against ICE, challenging the legality of arresting undocumented immigrants in or around state courthouses. President Trump and his Administration immediately filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit outright. But in his ruling today, denying the president’s motion, Judge Rakoff said, “Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings.”
The lawsuit, which will now move forward, makes the case that ICE arrests in and around courthouses impede the administration of justice and adversely affect public safety. The suit seeks to halt a two-year pattern of civil immigration arrests by federal ICE agents in and around state courts — arrests that have caused a major disruption to state court operations. By targeting parties, witnesses, and victims for arrests, ICE has impeded criminal prosecutions and deterred noncitizens and immigrants from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned, or never pursued, making communities less safe.
Additionally, a second lawsuit, filed by The Legal Aid Society and Clearly Gottlieb on the same day as Attorney General James and DA Gonzalez’s lawsuit, seeks a permanent injunction ordering the halt of ICE courthouse enforcement on behalf of an individual plaintiff — a noncitizen domestic violence survivor who needed to appear in court for an order of protection but feared the risk of an ICE arrest coming to a courthouse. Other plaintiffs include Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families, The Door, and the New York Immigration Coalition.
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