Legal Aid Society


LAS, Attorney General and District Attorney Sue to Halt ICE Arrests in Courthouses

The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, and New York Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today filed two separate lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, challenging the legality of the agency’s practice of making civil immigration arrests without a judicial warrant or court order in and around New York State courthouses.

The first lawsuit, filed by The Legal Aid Society and Clearly Gottlieb, seeks a permanent injunction ordering the halt of ICE courthouse enforcement on behalf of an individual plaintiff — a noncitizen domestic violence survivor who needed to appear in court for an order of protection, but feared the risk of an ICE arrest coming to a courthouse. Other plaintiffs include Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families, The Door, and the New York Immigration Coalition.

The second lawsuit, filed jointly by Attorney General James and District Attorney Gonzalez, makes the case that ICE arrests in and around courthouses impede the administration of justice and adversely impact public safety. The suit seeks to halt a two-year pattern of civil immigration arrests by federal ICE agents in and around state courts, which have caused a major disruption to state court operations. By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned, or never pursued, making communities less safe.

“New York State is home to more than 4 million noncitizens who are vulnerable to deportation. In order for our judicial system — a pillar of our democracy — to operate effectively, it is fundamental that they have equal access to courts,” said Janet Sabel, CEO and Attorney-In-Chief of The Legal Aid Society. “ICE’s courthouse enforcement blatantly violates the constitutional rights of our clients, as well as all immigrant New Yorkers, and we look forward to addressing this injustice in court.”