Federal judge rules ICE courthouse arrests in New York state are illegal

Adiel Kaplan

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests at courthouses in New York state, which have increased during the Trump administration, are illegal.

The ruling comes in a case filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in September that sought to block ICE from conducting civil immigration arrests at the state's courthouses.

For years, local officials, including police chiefs and state prosecutors, have said that immigration enforcement operations inside courthouses have hampered their ability to investigate and prosecute crimes. Immigration advocacy organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have mounted campaigns to track and end ICE courthouse arrests, arguing they undermine the justice system.

James and Gonzalez argued that ICE's current courthouse arrest policy, based on a January 2018 directive, exceeded its authority.

"The Court declares ICE’s policy of courthouse arrests, as now embodied in the Directive, to be illegal," Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in Wednesday's opinion, contrasting the arrests with the challenges COVID-19 has brought to the court system.

"It is one thing for the state courts to try to deal with the impediments brought on by a pandemic," he wrote, "and quite another for them to have to grapple with disruptions and intimidations artificially imposed by an agency of the federal government in violation of long-standing privileges and fundamental principles of federalism and of separation of powers.”

New York AG James described the ruling as a “victory over the Trump Administration’s over-policing policies [which] ensures the important work happening in local courts will continue undeterred without the targeting of immigrants seeking access to our courts.”