Civil arrests of Caribbean nationals being challenged in New York court

A Stop ICE graffiti outside a courthouse in New York.

At least two lawsuits have been filed in a New York court challenging the legality of civil immigration arrests of Caribbean and other immigrants by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency without a judicial warrant or court order in and around New York State courthouses.

The lawsuits have been filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, the Legal Aid Society and the law firm, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

The first lawsuit, filed jointly by James and Gonzalez, alleges that ICE arrests in and around courthouses impede the administration of justice and adversely impact public safety.

‘By targeting witnesses and victims for arrests, noncitizens and immigrants are deterred from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts.’

— New York Attorney General Letitia James

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”, James said.

“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,” she said. “As a result, valid prosecutions have been abandoned, or never pursued, making communities less safe.”

The second lawsuit, filed by New York’s The Legal Aid Society and Cleary 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.