Good news for immigrants in New York

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NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — New York Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez have won a major victory against the Trump Administration that prevents the Administration’s practice of arresting Caribbean and other immigrants in and around New York state courthouses in a manner that interferes with the state’s administration of justice.

Judge Jed Rakoff, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, granted James and Gonzalez’s motion for summary judgement to immediately end the Trump Administration’s policy that allowed US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to interfere with New York state case proceedings.

“Our victory over the Trump Administration’s over-policing policies ensures the important work happening in local courts will continue undeterred without the targeting of immigrants seeking access to our courts,” James said.

“By allowing federal agents to interfere with state and local cases, the Trump Administration endangered the safety of every New Yorker, while targeting immigrants,” she added. “All New Yorkers — immigrant or not — can sleep better tonight knowing justice can continue to be carried out.”

James thanked Gonzalez for his “invaluable partnership in bringing this lawsuit forward and fighting for New York’s immigrant community”.

Gonzalez said that, for more than three years, he has been calling on ICE to stop its “unconscionable practice of conducting immigration raids in and around our courthouses because they jeopardise public safety.

“But the Trump Administration only escalated this unlawful and dangerous tactic, creating a chilling effect in immigrant communities, which discouraged victims and witnesses from reporting crimes and participating in the legal process,” he said.

Gonzalez said he joined James in filing a federal lawsuit to bring this practice to an end.

“So, I am extremely gratified that US District Judge Rakoff today agreed and enjoined ICE from making those arrests, finding that it was a violation of long-standing practices, of their own policies, and interfered with the administration of justice,” he said.

“Allowing every resident equal access to our justice system is crucially important and necessary for maintaining fairness and public safety,” Gonzalez added.

Last September, James and Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against ICE and the US Department of Homeland Security, challenging the legality of the federal government’s expanded policy of arresting Caribbean and other immigrants in or around state courthouses.

James said the suit sought to halt a three-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, she said non-citizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court.

As a result, the New York attorney general said valid prosecutions have been “abandoned — or never pursued — making communities less safe”.

After James and Gonzalez filed their lawsuit, President Trump and his Administration immediately filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

But, in December, Judge Rakoff denied the motion, saying, “Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the Government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings.”

Earlier this year, both sides in the case asked the district court to rule expeditiously in the case; and, last month, the court heard oral arguments on both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ motions for summary judgement.

Separately, James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a Washington lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE, and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in January, over these three agencies’ practice of arresting Caribbean and other non-citizens without a judicial warrant or court order in and around state courthouses in the state of Washington.

Last month, James led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a similar lawsuit in Massachusetts.

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