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When Paying a Traffic Ticket Can End in Deportation

Originally published by The Washington post

After immigration authorities tried to arrest a young man who was paying a traffic ticket at City Hall in April, word spread quickly through this city, where a third of the residents are foreign-born.

The effect was immediate, said Joseph M. DeStefano, the mayor of Middletown. The week before the attempted arrest, more than 500 people had visited the building to apply for a new municipal identification program. The week after, about five did, Mr. DeStefano said.

“That one incident has completely undermined the immigrant community’s confidence in their ability to come to City Hall or the police station,” he said.

As the Trump administration has widened the pool of people facing deportation, antagonism has grown between the White House and so-called sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

After immigration authorities tried to arrest a young man who was paying a traffic ticket at City Hall in April, word spread quickly through this city, where a third of the residents are foreign-born.

The effect was immediate, said Joseph M. DeStefano, the mayor of Middletown. The week before the attempted arrest, more than 500 people had visited the building to apply for a new municipal identification program. The week after, about five did, Mr. DeStefano said.

“That one incident has completely undermined the immigrant community’s confidence in their ability to come to City Hall or the police station,” he said.

As the Trump administration has widened the pool of people facing deportation, antagonism has grown between the White House and so-called sanctuary cities, which limit cooperation with immigration authorities.

In New York and New Jersey, efforts to curb cooperation have gone even further. The states recently banned immigration agents from arresting undocumented migrants in state courthouses. Municipalities in at least four other states have imposed similar rules.

In New York, however, the regulations do not apply to the approximately 1,300 courts located in towns and villages, a sprawling system that handles everyday issues such as minor criminal offenses and evictions.

Mr. DeStefano is among a group of people pushing the State Legislature to extend the ban to these local courts — another flash point in the debate over how much power sanctuary citiesshould have to restrict federal law enforcement.

“It sets a dangerous precedent where states decide which federal laws they will abide and which they won’t abide,” said State Senator Robert G. Ortt, a Republican who represents Niagara and Orleans counties in upstate New York. “This bill almost criminalizes federal law enforcement for doing their job.”

The current version of the bill in Albany would allow the attorney general to bring a lawsuit on behalf of anyone arrested in a courthouse against the federal officer who made the arrest.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy prohibits agents from arresting people in certain “sensitive locations,” including hospitals and schools, to preserve the public trust. But in January 2018, the then-acting director of ICE, Thomas D. Homan, issued a directive clearing the path for agents to make arrests in courthouses.

The memo said that courthouses were a safer place to confront immigrants than homes or workplaces because people were screened for weapons before they enter.

The decision touched off an angry response among some in law enforcement, who said ICE arrests at courthouses could lead some immigrants to avoid the entire justice system.

“If you’re afraid to come forward out of fear of being swept up and deported, how many heinous crimes will go unreported?” said Craig D. Apple Sr., the sheriff of Albany County. “If people are afraid to come to me and speak with me, then we have a problem.”

ICE officials said their agents turn to courthouses only as a last resort, especially in sanctuary cities where law enforcement officers have declined to cooperate with immigration authorities.

“Absent a viable address for a residence or place of employment, a courthouse may afford the most likely opportunity to locate a target and take him or her into custody,” Rachael Yong Yow, an ICE spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The New York State Office of Court Administration, which governs court procedures in the state, instituted new rules in April prohibiting immigration agents from arresting migrants incourthouses without a warrant signed by a judge. The rules do not apply to local courts, which operate outside of O.C.A. control.

Read more:https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/nyregion/ice-courthouse-arrests.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=New%20York

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