Law enforcement officers, including federal immigration agents, are prohibited from entering state courthouses without identifying themselves and declaring their intentions, according to a memo issued by the state courts’ security chief.
The memo comes in the aftermath of complaints by defense lawyers and immigrant advocates that agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under President Donald Trump’s stewardship have boosted the number of detentions of immigrant defendants and other litigants who show up to courthouses for separate legal matters.
“The supervisor shall inform the judge if a law enforcement agent covered by this protocol is present in the courthouse with the intent of arresting or otherwise taking into custody a party or other participant in a case before the judge,” according to the memo issued in April by the Office of Court Administration’s public safety chief Michael Magliano, which was disclosed Thursday at a City Council hearing about courthouse immigration enforcement. The memo doesn’t specifically mention immigration agents.
A month earlier, the head of the state court officers’ union, Dennis Quirk, told his members to give “100 percent cooperation” to immigration agents.
Local municipalities like New York City own most local court buildings, but the court system is managed by the state.
New York County Defender Services executive director Stanislao A. Germán told the council that in practice, the Magliano protocol is routinely disregarded: Anyone entering the courthouse who flashes a shield is admitted without necessarily being required to obey the protocol.
Tina Luongo of the Legal Aid Society testified that advocates want the state OCA to bar immigration agents from the building, or at least require defense counsel be told whenever the agents are there to detain a person in a case. Currently, it’s at each judge’s discretion.
“Do something, somebody, and let the federal government try to sue us,” she urged the state and city.
Court spokesman Lucian Chalfen did not say whether the courts would heed the advocates’ demands but said court officials are open to more meetings on the issue.
Particularly at risk for deportation are women arrested at massage parlors.
The society’s Kate Mogluescu said she’s alarmed with the twentyfold uptick in arrests at massage parlors during stings: In 2016, the NYPD arrested 631 people for offering massage without a license, up from 31 in 2012. About 91 percent are not citizens, about 37 percent are illegally in the country, and 20 percent are victims of human trafficking. Most are Asian women.
These stings, Mogluescu lamented, put the arrestees in danger of deportation.
Lt. John Grimpel, an NYPD spokesman said, the stings would continue without regard to an arrestee’s immigrant status. “We will not stop enforcing the law in the City of New York,” he said, “especially when it’s a community concern and a quality-of-life issue.”