A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Amidst our grim, slow slide into a police state where almost no one is safe comes a new report showing ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants at courthouses in New York state have risen a staggering 1,700% since Trump’s coronation. The report, “The Courthouse Trap,” was released Monday by the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project. It tells of not just rising numbers but increasing brutality, broader scope and an alarming loosening of the rule of law, all while ICE’s bullies and racists often target the most vulnerable – young people, survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and victims of other crimes.
The allegations, collected from lawyers, legal aid groups and the Project’s hotline, include horrific instances of ICE thugs tackling people, pulling guns on them, dragging them from cars in front of their stunned kids, slamming family members against walls, trailing and assaulting their (pregnant) lawyers and otherwise terrorizing them. Many perpetrators are plainclothes agents who use unmarked cars and (illegally) refuse to identify themselves; in one case, they so violently, anonymously grabbed and dragged away a man in Brooklyn his distraught mother thought he was being kidnapped – which, really, he was.
The report also found ICE attacks had reached into upstate, previously untouched areas, and into once- sacrosanct locations like civil, family, juvenile, small claims and rehabilitative justice courts – that, despite a 2018 pledge to avoid “enforcement actions at sensitive locations.” New York City accounts for about 75% of arrests, which went from 11 in 2016 to over 200 in 2018 – part of a record increase in ICE detentions around the country. ICE doesn’t want to acknowledge what critics call the “affront to justice” against people who, lest we forget, have committed no crimes. Like any good Gestapo member, a spokesperson responded to a query about numbers with, “Unfortunately, we can’t speak to the data you’ve referenced.”
Others, though, can. The ACLU has reported law enforcement claims that courthouse arrests are negatively affecting public safety, with more immigrants afraid to help criminal investigations. Dozens of prominent judges have asked ICE to add courthouses to “sensitive locations” free of them;they argued, “Our justice system cannot function effectively (if) victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members do not feel secure in accessing the courthouse.” New York is developing a landmark “Protect Our Courts Act” to outlaw “the civil arrest of an individual attending a court proceeding.” And public defenders are rallying to stop ICE from messing with their already-terrified clients; some have even urged clients not to post bail for their own protection, reasoning they will be safer behind bars. The Founding Fathers weep.
First published in Common Dreams.