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Rally against immigration agents’ presence at courthouses

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito says New York’s top judge should do more to stop federal agents from ‘roaming our courthouses.’

Activists rallly on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in

Activists rallly on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Brooklyn to call on state Chief Justice Janet DiFiore to implement a policy barring immigration agents from state court facilities. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Hundreds of New York City public defenders and immigrant rights activists rallied on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday, calling on the state’s top judge to block the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts at local courthouses.

Immigration and criminal defense attorneys said there has been an increase in arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at state courthouses since President Donald Trump assumed office.

The demonstrators urged Chief Justice Janet DiFiore to implement policies prohibiting ICE agents from “roaming” state court facilities to arrest defendants.

ICE agents have made 40 arrests in New York City courthouses this year, and 53 statewide, according to the state Office of Court Administration.

The activists said before Trump took office, vowing to ramp up deportations of immigrants living in the country illegally, there were only a handful of arrests throughout the state.

“We’re calling on OCA to ban ICE from New York courthouses,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has backed successful council proposals to block federal immigration agents from entering city buildings without court orders.

Mark-Viverito said DiFiore, who oversees the state’s Office of Court Administration, has not done “enough to stop ICE from roaming our courthouses.”

Court administration officials did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

They have said state guidelines allow immigration agents to conduct arrests as long as they identify themselves to court officers upon entry, and as long as they operate in public areas of the courthouse, such as hallways, and not inside courtrooms.

The rally Thursday attracted about 200 protesters who chanted “ICE out! ICE out!” It came a week after dozens of Brooklyn public defenders staged a walkout at a state courthouse after Genaro Rojas-Hernandez, 30, who is living in the country illegally and was detained by ICE agents before the start of his trial on domestic violence charges.

Activists argue that ICE’s increased presence at courthouses can deter crime victims living in the country illegally from coming forward to report serious crimes. Lawyers at the rally also said defendants may be less willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

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