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Legislature passes immigrant protection bill, would forbid arrests in courthouses for illegal status

A new law passed by both houses of the New York State legislature would ensure free access to the courts by those who might fear an immigration-related arrest in a courthouse.

According to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who is a co-sponsor of the bill, the new law “would prohibit, an arrest while on the way to or returning from a court proceeding. It would promote public safety and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the justice system and can attend court without fear of immigration consequences.”

The legislation was sponsored in the assembly by Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Valley Stream).

According to the Immigrant Defense Project, an advocacy group specializing in the rights of immigrants, arrests by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at courthouses in New York increased by 1,200% from 2016 to 2017. These arrests by federal agents have, according to Mr. Thiele, “dissuaded many individuals from contacting law enforcement or following through with necessary court proceedings. District attorneys and legal representatives have expressed frustration and concern regarding their ability to pursue cases, with victims and witnesses sometimes too afraid to attend court proceedings.”

The new law would order ICE to secure a warrant from a judge to arrest any individual inside a courthouse.

Mr. Thiele added, in a statement, “I thank my colleague for introducing such important and timely legislation, and I am hopeful that it will become law.”

The proposed law now awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature to become effective.