Politico: De Blasio Says ICE’s Role In Courthouses Is A State Issue
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017

"Local courthouses shouldn’t be used as bait for ICE," Tina Luongo, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society, said in a Politico article highlighting the fact that city officials have yet to come up with a plan to handle ICE agents seeking undocumented immigrants in court.

De Blasio Says ICE’s Role In Courthouses Is A State Issue
By Gloria Pazmino
March 29th, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to take a firm position on the city’s role in preventing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from patrolling the city’s courts, saying it was a decision for the state to make.

“Let’s be clear, that’s state property,” de Blasio said of courthouses during an unrelated press conference in Queens Wednesday. “We’re really clear about what we are going to do on city property and what we delineated for the Department of Education is going to be true for all of our agencies.”

De Blasio, who last week laid out specific Department of Education guidelines on how to respond to ICE agents, said the issue of officers in the courts is in the hands of the state, although the physical court buildings are managed by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, a city agency.

“We are talking about state property, we have to be respectful of the state's prerogative," he said. Though he did add that the city would have a "dialogue" on the issue, "because it does worry me."

“It worries me that it is going to create fear and it’s going to create less willingness to come forward for a witness, for example, who is supposed to testify," he said. "You are creating a disincentive, which really flies in the face of our approach to public safety.”

Responding to the mayor's comments, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society said public defenders have not yet seen a plan on how the city plans to handle ICE agents at courts, and now do not expect to see one anytime soon.

"Local courthouses shouldn’t be used as bait for ICE and the Mayor needs to seriously hit the drawing board," Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement. "As we’ve said before, if New York is truly going to be a sanctuary city, then local lawmakers must move quick to preempt draconian policies promulgated from the Trump White House. Otherwise, this talk of our city being a safe haven for immigrants is just textbook political lip service and broken promises.”

Immigration advocates and elected officials have said the city’s courts are becoming a target for ICE officers seeking to detain undocumented immigrants as part of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

The added presence in courts is leading to fear among already rattled immigrant communities in the city, legal observers say, with immigrants thinking twice before showing up to court mandated appearances and risking bench warrants for not showing up to respond to a summons.

According to the Office of Court Administration, which manages the courts, ICE has reached out about the status of a defendant on six separate occasions, with three resulting in arrest.

In response, legal service providers have pushed OCA to set rules in accordance with a recent legal opinion issued by the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In his guidelines, Schneiderman contended that state employees are not compelled to cooperate with ICE. The legal providers believe state court officers fall under that category.

Despite the request, OCA has yet to publicly set a policy on the issue and questions remain about whether the office has the power to deny federal law enforcement officers access to its facilities.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said earlier this week she had met with Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who heads OCA, regarding the need to establish a specific protocol to deal with ICE.

De Blasio acknowledged Wednesday his office has no immediate solutions, but would also be seeking guidance from OCA.

“I’m worried about it, I don’t have a solution, we will engage with the Office of Courts Administration and see if, at minimum, there can be some boundaries or guidelines,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Politico.