NEW YORK — A motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s arrest practices has been tossed out by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff denied last week the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, challenging ICE arrests around courthouses.

“Courts cannot be expected to function properly if third parties (not least the executive branch of the government) feel free to disrupt the proceedings and intimidate the parties and witnesses by staging arrests for unrelated civil violations in the courthouse, on court property, or while the witnesses or parties are in transit to or from their court proceedings,” Rakoff wrote in his decision filed Dec. 19.

James commended Rakoff’s decision to deny the administration’s motion to dismiss.

“Today’s ruling ensures we will get our day in court to make the case that ICE’s policies are nothing more than illegal maneuvers that harm our state’s ability to provide justice through the court system,” James said in a statement.

James and Gonzalez sued ICE in September, alleging that the arrest of immigrants near courthouses disrupts the functioning of those courts and intimidates victims and witnesses from working with law enforcement and from protecting their own rights.

According to data from the Immigrant Defense Project, the Trump era saw a 1,736% increase in ICE courthouse enforcement in and around New York courts. In 2016, ICE made a total of 11 arrests near courthouses across New York State. In 2018, that number jumped to 219.

At the time of the lawsuit filing, Gonzalez said immigrant victims and witnesses’ fear of getting arrested by ICE because of the agency’s courthouse presence has obstructed many of his criminal cases over the past two years.

“This policy has a chilling effect in immigrant communities and discourages cooperation with law enforcement — thus jeopardizing public safety,” he said in a statement last week.

ICE policy identifies sensitive locations, or sanctuary spaces, for officers to avoid, including schools, places of worship and hospitals. In a 2018 resolution, the New York State Bar Association asked ICE to classify courthouses as sensitive locations.

Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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