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Amid Spike in Courthouse Immigration Arrests, ICE Issues Formal Policy

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Originally published by Yahoo Finance

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday it has issued a formal policy on making arrests in federal, state and local courthouses, saying it will target convicted criminals and persons considered threats to public safety, but leaving a window open for arrests under “special circumstances.” The written policy was dated Jan. 10, 2017, nearly one year since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. In that time ICE has stepped up enforcement, chalking up more than 111,000 arrests between Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump took the oath of office, and Sept. 30, a 42 percent increase over the same time period in 2016. In New York, there were more than 130 arrests by ICE agents at courthouses across the state in 2017, according to the Immigrant Defense Project, of which roughly three-quarters occurred at courthouses in New York City. The previous year, ICE made 11 arrests at courthouses. Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said in an email that ICE has made three arrests at New York City courthouses this year. Chalfen said the written policy is a “direct result” of court system officials’ communications with ICE and that court system officials work to ensure that arrests do not disrupt court functions. “We will continue to request that they treat all courthouses as sensitive locations, and will continue to raise these issues with ICE officials,” Chalfen said. The policy, which became effective on Jan. 10, directs ICE agents to spare friends and family members of their targets when making courthouse arrests and to avoid areas of courthouses dedicated to noncriminal proceedings, like family courts or small claims courts. “Federal, state and local law enforcement officials routinely engage in enforcement activity in courthouses throughout the country because many individuals appearing in courthouses for one matter are wanted for unrelated criminal or civil violations,” the directive states. The policy also takes an apparent jab at so-called “sanctuary cities”—it states that courthouse arrests are made necessary by the “unwillingness” of some jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE agents on transferring immigrant detainees. In a statement, the Immigrant Defense Project said the written policy is not new and “really just a continuation” of what ICE has been doing since Trump took office. “ICE will continue to stalk and arrest survivors of violence, young people and people with serious mental illness, just as they have been for the past year,” the statement reads. “This policy will do nothing to change that practice. The threat that ICE poses to public safety and to the fair administration of justice remains.” Marianne Yang, supervising attorney and co-director of the Center for Appellate Litigation’s Immigrant Justice Project, which pursues post-conviction relief for defendants at risk for deportation because of their conviction, said ICE’s stepped-up arrests in New York courthouses over the past year has struck fear not only into immigrants facing criminal proceedings, but also in complaining witnesses and immigrants who need to go to courthouses for noncriminal matters. “It’s that sense of fear to come forward in a place that, No. 1, is supposed to protect some people, No. 2 be a place to answer their charges,” said Yang .

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