NEW YORK, CMC – At least two lawsuits have been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the legality of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of making civil immigration arrests for Caribbean and other immigrants 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.

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.

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

Other plaintiffs include the non-profit groups Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families, The Door and the New York Immigration Coalition.

Since Donald Trump became President in 2017, ICE arrests in and around New York courthouses have increased by 1,700 percent, reported The Intercept.

“When ICE targets witnesses and victims for arrests, it deters noncitizens and immigrants from assisting in state and local law enforcement efforts or protecting their own rights in court. This is a disastrous and dangerous break from previous policy, and that’s why we are fighting to force them to end this practice,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Gonzalez said that “if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career as a prosecutor, it’s that law enforcement can’t keep people safe without the participation of the communities we serve.

“Over the past two years, numerous immigrant victims and witnesses have refused to come forward and assist in our prosecutions out of fear that they’ll be arrested in court by immigration agents, forcing my office to dismiss or reduce serious criminal cases,” he said.

“The refusal by ICE to treat courthouses as sensitive locations regularly disrupts court operations, creates a chilling effect in immigrant communities and erodes public safety.

Chief executive officer and Attorney-In-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, Janet Sabel noted that New York State is home to more than 4 million noncitizens who are vulnerable to deportation.

“In order for our judicial system — a pillar of our democracy — to operate effectively, it is fundamental that they have equal access to courts,” she said.

“ICE’s courthouse enforcement blatantly violates the constitutional rights of our clients, as well as all immigrant New Yorkers, and we look forward to addressing this injustice in court,” said.

Jonathan I. Blackman, of the Manhattan-based Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, said that ICE’s policy of arresting noncitizens at New York State courthouses has “impeded effective access to justice in our communities.

In the lawsuit, James and Gonzalez argue that the ICE Courthouse Civil Arrest Directive implemented in 2018 violates the Administration Procedure Act and the US Constitution.