Gotham Gazette: As Courts Reopen, Threat of ICE Returns: State Lawmakers Must Protect Our Neighbors

“ICE has already used the courthouse to trap immigrants during the current crisis. On March 13, as President Trump declared a National Emergency, Mr. RC, a client of The Bronx Defenders, appeared in state court in Poughkeepsie. Despite the mounting pandemic and the deployment of state and federal resources to try to contain the virus and protect public health, six ICE officers entered the courthouse, defying Office of Court Administration rules promulgated last year, waited for Mr. RC outside the courtroom doors, and arrested him as he left his court appearance. None of the officers wore gloves, masks, or any other protective gear. ICE then detained Mr. RC at the Orange County Jail, increasing the likelihood of exposure and separating him from his fiancee and one-year-old as the worst period of the pandemic was just beginning.

Mr. RC’s experience is not an aberration. The Bronx Defenders has represented hundreds of individuals arrested under circumstances that demonstrate ICE’s disregard for the health, safety, and, indeed, the humanity of immigrants in New York. The tremendous health risks posed by detention centers have been well-documented. Detained immigrants have been holding hunger strikesprotesting, and filing lawsuits calling on ICE to end unnecessary and harmful detention. The last place anyone should be in the midst of this pandemic is a cage. At this critical moment, New York should embrace legislation that would limit ICE’s ability to pull more New Yorkers into its dragnet.”

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