Judge blocks ICE from civil arrests at New York courthouses

NEW YORK — Federal immigration authorities can’t make civil arrests at New York state courthouses or arrest anyone going there for a proceeding because a policy change was made in an arbitrary and capricious manner, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling by Judge Jed S. Rakoff came after New York state and the Brooklyn district attorney sued over the policy switch codified in January 2018. Several immigrant advocates’ groups have sued over the same issue in a case proceeding before another Manhattan judge.

Rakoff struck down a federal directive issued in 2017 and codified in January 2018 that plaintiffs said caused the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to greatly increase civil immigration arrests in and around New York State courthouses.

Rakoff said the policy was illegal and was made in an arbitrary and capricious manner. He said the policy stemmed from an executive order that did not “compel the agency to undertake its vast broadening of the scope of courthouse arrests.”

And he said the agency, ICE, had failed to explain why its actions were necessary.

A spokesperson for federal lawyers who represented the government declined comment.

Plaintiffs had contended that ICE arrests in courthouses have skyrocketed since President Donald Trump took office, causing what Rakoff described in a December ruling as a rise “by a remarkable 1,700 percent or more.”

In that decision, Rakoff noted that over 500 years ago, the English courts developed a common law privilege against civil arrests on courthouse premises.

“This ancient privilege, incorporated into American law in the early years of our republic by virtually all state and federal courts, has remained largely intact over the centuries,” Rakoff said.

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