With the second year of a Democratic-controlled state Legislature underway, it’s understandable that the majority is optimistic about the prospects for passing the bills on its agenda, and some Democratic lawmakers Tuesday were confident the Protect Our Courts Act would be one such bill.

The legislation would bar U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from making civil immigration arrests in and around state courthouses without a judicial warrant or order of authorization.

The nonprofit organization Immigrant Defense Project released a report detailing an exponential rise in ICE arrests in and near courthouses under the Trump administration.

Arrests across the state have skyrocketed by 1,700% since 2016, according to the report. And despite an order from the New York Office of Courts Administration requiring ICE to serve judicial warrants to make arrests in New York courthouses, ICE continued to target courthouses to make a large number of arrests.

According to the report, lawyers, judges and prosecutors have assailed these raids, citing harmful barriers to access to courts and services for defendants, witnesses, victims and other litigants, threats to public safety and the legal and moral underpinnings of the state court system.

In a survey of more than 225 New York state judges, prosecutors and other attorneys cited a noticeable escalation in ICE arrests of immigrants attending court for reasonable and legal reasons and the resulting chilling effect on the willingness of immigrants to participate in the court process, according to the report.

The time to consider passage of this legislation is now, before ICE agents get more comfortable chipping away at the sanctity of our courthouses. The idea that rounding up immigrants in courthouses is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, and is reprehensible. This is behavior that went out with the Jim Crow laws of the 1950s. We hope this legislation will force ICE to look the 21st century in the eye.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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