Legal Aid Attorneys and Community Organizations Hold March Demanding Due Process for New York’s Immigrant Communities

UAW Local 2325 and allies say that the presence of ICE Officers in the Courthouses impedes access to justice and denies due process to defendants and communities.

(New York, NY) – The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325 (ALAA), along with a broad coalition of unions, immigrant rights organizations, and community groups held a rally on Thursday, March 15, 2018 in Foley Square at 4pm, followed by a march to the headquarters of the Office of Court Administration (OCA). It is time for Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and OCA to immediately implement a policy to prohibit Immigration & Customs Enforcement agents from entering state courthouses.  

The attorneys say that OCA’s continued coordination with ICE impedes the right to due process for immigrants and their families.  Enacting these policies would help solidify New York City and New York State’s “Sanctuary” status and make sure that our State stands firm in resistance to Trump’s mass deportation agenda.  While Judge DiFiore has called on ICE to cease action in New York’s courthouses, immigrant rights advocates claim that it is unreasonable to expect a positive response from Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. The Judiciary should affirmatively act to protect immigrants.  As long as New York courthouses remain open to ICE agents, there can be no justice. Cooperating with ICE puts our clients in danger, and shows contempt for Due Process rights in the State of New York.

In both November 2017 and February 2018, clients of the Legal Aid Society were detained by ICE during a regular court appearance, prompting spontaneous walk-outs and protest of public defenders in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and OCA remain silent and idly watch as ICE agents continue to appear in New York Courts.

Public defenders have declared their continued commitment to protect their immigrant clients’ rights both in their communities and in the courtroom.  The regular presence of ICE in state courthouses deters immigrant community members from accessing due process and justice. Public defenders hope to increase pressure on OCA to implement this policy by bringing together a broad alliance of public defenders, legal services groups, community & immigrant organizations, and elected officials, all united behind the demand to keep ICE out of courthouses.

“Every day, the members of our union serve the communities of New York as they seek access to justice in the Court system.  We will not be complicit in allowing our clients to be detained for exercising their right to appear before a judge” said Deborah Wright, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. “By failing to impose a simple regulation to protect immigrants in the New York State Courthouses, the Office of Court Administration is continually denying our clients their right to due process.”

“Courthouse arrests plague our clients in every borough and deter immigrants and others from seeking crucial services offered by the court,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “We cannot wait any longer, and we call on New York State’s Office of Court Administration to promulgate meaningful policy immediately addressing this issue. New Yorkers have a Constitutional right to fight the charges against them and ICE’s continued presence at courts undercuts that guarantee. The Legal Aid Society stands in solidarity with public defenders and immigrant advocates around the city echoing calls for action from Albany.”

“As an organization that serves the Arab immigrant community and advocates for immigrant rights, we believe in everyone’s right to due process and their safety in our courts” said Arab American Association of New York Executive Director Rama Issa-Ibrahim. “The government’s policy and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore’s decision to continue allowing ICE in the courts goes against our advocacy efforts to build a stronger, safer immigrant New York, and is complicit to the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. We will continue to fight against these policies and show up for our community until they get the rights they are entitled to.”

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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.