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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will no longer be able to detain undocumented immigrants in and around New York City courts, a demand that has been pursued for years by advocacy organizations.
Governor, Andrew Cuomo, printed his signature this Tuesday to validate the “Protect Our Courts” Act, which protects undocumented immigrants appearing before federal immigration authorities when they have to go to local or state courts.
The new law “guarantees that New Yorkers can freely access the justice system without the fear of becoming a target of federal immigration authorities,” says a statement from the state’s government office released Tuesday.
The letter stresses that the usual practice of ICE to detain immigrants in the vicinity of city courts “discouraged them from appearing in New York courts and prevented a fair administration of justice”.
“Unlike the federal government, New York has always protected our immigrant communities,” said Cuomo, who was quoted in the story, insisting that “this legislation guarantees all New Yorkers that they can go to court without fear of being unfairly treated by ICE or other federal immigration authorities.”
The statement specifies that this law does not prevent an undocumented person from being detained by court order, although federal law enforcement agencies will not be able to execute an administrative arrest warrant issued by an immigration court after leaving a New York state court.
For the association “Make The Road”, which defends the rights of the immigrant and undocumented community, this law is a “historic milestone.”
“It is a victory for immigrant New Yorkers. Now that the Protect Our Courts bill has become law, it puts an end to the presence of ICE and its abusive tactics that intimidated and prevented immigrants from having equal access to the courts,” said the NGO’s co-director, Javier Valdés, in a brief statement.
Between 2016 and 2018 ICE operations increased the number of undocumented immigrants detained around the courts from 11 to 202, a rise of 1,700 percent, according to the digital media Documented in October.
In 2019, 127 people were arrested outside court buildings, mainly in Brooklyn and Queens counties.