Bill Seeks to Protect Immigrants from ICE in NY Courts

Miriam Martínez

Make the Road New York member Miriam Martínez. (Photo via El Diario)

[Below are excerpts from a story by El Diario’s José Martínez.]

In July 2018, the life of Plutarco Ramírez and his wife, Miriam Martínez, changed drastically in a matter of minutes. In the past, he had been falsely accused and arrested for a crime but the charges against him were dropped. However, Ramírez’s name ended up in the hands of agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From then on, fear has taken over his family.

Martínez, a member of Make the Road New York (MRNY), gathered all her courage and decided to testify in front of the City Council on Wednesday, hoping that her voice will help turn a bill to keep ICE out of courthouses into law.

“Immigration [agents] stop people while they are trying to resolve their cases in court without letting them know who they are,” said Martínez. “The Protect Our Courts Act will reduce [the number of] arrests outside courthouses, (…) and that will prevent people from being afraid to go to court, which could be harmful to their case.”

Martínez spoke at a public hearing to discuss a resolution asking the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enact the Protect Our Courts Act, which would forbid ICE agents to make civil arrests in and around courthouses without a court order.

(…) Council member Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration, said: “By shamelessly invading courts to carry out their deportation agenda, ICE is preventing people from appearing in court to have their cases heard, discouraging victims of crimes from reporting them to the police and damaging the integrity and trust in our justice system.”

(…) According to a recent report by the Immigrant Defense Project, ever since the Trump administration took office in early 2017, arrests in courts have skyrocketed by 1,700 percent [in New York State].

Report: Devastating Impact of ICE Arrests in Courts

[Below are excerpts from a story by El Diario’s Ramón Frisneda.]

An extreme fear toward the legal system on the part of immigrants is the most “corrosive” impact of the increase in the number of arrests ICE is carrying out in New York courthouses, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the ICE Out of Courts Coalition, formed by some one hundred organizations from across the state.

The report, entitled “Safeguarding the Integrity of Our Courts: The Impact of ICE Courthouse Operations in New York State,” reveals that the fear is so widespread that a growing number of immigrants refuse to report crimes to the police, appear in court as witnesses in legal cases or apply for the U visa [for victims of crimes].

(…) “The data and experiences of court practitioners in this report underscore what advocates have been trumpeting over the last two years – ICE enforcement in our courts is instilling fear in immigrant communities, preventing victims and survivors of abuse from getting the legal help they need to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Terry Lawson, director of the Bronx Legal Services’ Family and Immigration Unit.

The study specifically points to the “chilling effects” that ICE’s actions have, which include discouraging victims of sexual and domestic violence from reporting their cases or single and young mothers from finding legal help. In general, the report continues, “la migra” is provoking a systematic denial of immigrants’ right to full and equal access to courts, while having an impact on the work lawyers carry out with their clients and affecting the essential job of court clerks.

(…) Among the “irrefutable” evidence of this impact, the report lists that in some areas, a drop of 90 percent in calls to immigrant affairs units to report crimes hotlines has been recorded; in Manhattan’s Family Court, there has been a 100 percent drop in the number of U certification requests filed by immigrants who have been victims of a crime, and it has also significantly decreased in other counties. There has also been a spike in the cases of abusive partners who mention ICE as a threat and in victims afraid to testify or seek help in courts, as well as interruptions in legal programs and processes.

(…)

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