Dozens of Unions, Community Groups, Elected Officials, and Defender Organizations Sign On to Letter Calling on Chief Judge DiFiore to Ban ICE From NY Courthouses

Headed by the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325, this coalition hopes to enact policy change by the end of the year

(New York, NY) – Following a rally of hundreds of public defenders and community members on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall, dozens of unions, immigrant rights organizations, community groups, and elected officials have signed onto a letter to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, calling for the Office of Court Administration (OCA) and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to immediately implement a policy to prohibit Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents from entering state courthouses, and to end coordination with ICE.  The groups, which include SEIU 32BJ, Make the Road NY, and major defender organizations in New York seek to demonstrate broad community consensus on enacting this common sense reform to preserve New York’s status as a “Sanctuary State.”

Chief Judge DiFiore has seen the brave walkout by our public defenders in Brooklyn in response to one of their clients being detained in court, as well the subsequent rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall that received massive  support from organizations and community groups”  said Deborah Wright, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325.  ‘It is time for the Chief Judge to act by immediately prohibiting ICE interference in the court system.

“ICE’s continued presence in our courts is a detriment to everyone involved. It compromises safety and security, deters individuals from resolving pending matters, and discourages others from seeking services offered by our judicial system,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society . “After a year of unprecedented courthouse arrests, we need action to stop this horribly unfair and unjust practice.”

“ICE agents don’t belong in New York courts – it’s that simple. It’s an approach that isn’t just morally wrong, but also discourages New Yorkers from coming to court altogether, threatening the legitimacy of a system that is designed to uphold the law. That’s why immigration-related arrests in courthouses need to end – and need to end now” said NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“All New Yorkers have the right to access to justice through our state court system,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.  The City Council has established strong policies to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers feel comfortable accessing city services and cooperating with law enforcement – now the State Court must do its part. The current OCA policies and protocols have not done enough to stop disruptive ICE courthouse arrests and we cannot ignore that ICE intends to continue, and even escalate, their efforts. It is OCA’s obligation to protect the integrity of our judicial system so we call on OCA to ban ICE from courthouses..

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As the oldest union of attorneys in the country, ALAA – UAW Local 2325, represents 1,200 attorneys and staff members at the Legal Aid Society of New York, The Nassau County Legal Aid Society, the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Federal Defenders of New York, and Youth Represent.

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