Since the Trump administration took office in early 2017, the number of ICE arrests in New York City courthouses has skyrocketed, according to a report from the Immigrant Defense Project.
The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), a nonprofit that promotes justice for immigrants, documented 202 total reports of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests and sightings in state courthouses throughout 2018.
That’s a 1700 percent increase compared to 2016, before President Donald Trump took office, per the report.
Of those 202 reports, 187 were specifically about ICE arrests, in which IDP could confirm that the federal agency took someone into custody during a courthouse operation.
Of those total state arrests, 127 were In New York City alone. The largest number of ICE arrests were in Brooklyn, which saw 35 arrests in 2018, and Queens, which had 33 arrests.
Those figure show a stark jump from previous years. In 2017, IDP documended 159 total ICE arrests in New York State courts and in 2016, just 11 arrests, according to the report.
“This report shows that ICE is expanding surveillance and arrests in courthouses across the state, creating a crisis for immigrants who need access to the courts. We cannot allow ICE to turn New York’s courts into traps for immigrants,” said Alisa Wellek, IDP Executive Director, in a statement.
In some cases, New York State court officers even assisted with the ICE arrests, per the report.
Per IDP, a report of an ICE sighting means that witnesses saw ICE agents or ICE vehicles in or near a courthouse, but the nonprofit could not verify an arrest.
Sightings are still worrisome, the nonprofit says, because it could mean that ICE was looking for someone, made an arrest that wasn’t reported or could have been conducting surveillance on someone the agency is targeting.
ICE arrests in New York courthouses: what can be done to protect immigrants?
The practice of ICE courthouse arrests has been criticized by New York City’s district attorneys, who last year called on ICE to stop arresting immigrants at local courthouses, and by Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with immigrant advocacy groups across the city.
IDP is calling on the New York State legislature to pass the Protect Our Courts Act, which would restrict civil immigration arrests of those attending court. The Protect Our Courts Act was introduced this month by Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and Senator Brad Hoylman.
The IDP report on ICE arrests in New York courthouses came out the same day that noted New York City immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir had his ICE check-in. Last January, Ragbir was detained after his routine check-in with ICE, prompting protests and words of support from city residents and elected officials.
Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, currently has a stay of deportation. He is scheduled to report to ICE again in six months.
“I stand with Ravi Ragbir and all immigrants against deportation,” Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement on Monday. “New York City is a sanctuary city and we will defend residents regardless of where they come from or their immigration status.”
Rodriguez added that he is “appalled” by a Documented NY article on Monday that revealed New York State court officers are informing IICE when immigrants arrive to the courthouse so that they can then be arrested.
“We must stop this practice and end these unlawful deportations in New York,” he added.