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New York sues ICE over ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ civil immigration arrests

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State and local officials on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), alleging the agency makes “unlawful and unconstitutional” civil immigration arrests in and around courthouses in New York City.

The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, claims these arrests deter witnesses from helping law enforcement and prevents victims from reporting crimes to the authorities out of fear of being detained.

“This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s recent unlawful and unconstitutional policy authorizing civil immigration arrests in and around New York State courthouses — a policy that disrupts the effective functioning of our courts, deters victims and witnesses from assisting law enforcement and vindicating their rights, hinders criminal prosecution, and undermines public safety,” the complaint reads.

The suit argues the tactics impede on the state’s powers under its constitution, and it seeks to bar ICE from conducting such activities in the future.

The complaint cites a 2018 decision by the agency to reverse its previous practice of avoiding courthouses. By issuing the “Courthouse Civil Arrest Directive,” the agency allegedly exceeded its statutory authority and “failed to account for its harm to state judicial proceedings or to justify the marginal benefits,” the complaint reads.

ICE spokeswoman Rachel Yong Yow told the New York Post in a statement that the agency’s activities at and around courthouses “are consistent with longstanding law enforcement practices nationwide.”

“And courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails,” she said.

Three civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit against ICE in August over the medical and mental health care provided at migrant detention centers, alleging the group has failed to provide appropriate medical and mental health care at the roughly 158 facilities it operates nationwide.