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New rules seek to prevent ICE arrests in courthouses

If you are the victim of a crime or some other violation of your rights, you may take comfort in the fact that you can fight for justice through the court system in New Jersey. However, if your immigration status is in question, you may be fearful of taking that step.

You may have read or heard recent stories in the media of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents waiting at court houses to arrest those whose status is unlawful or who are wanted for other immigration offenses. Because of this, you may be interested in the latest rule that may protect you from this kind of risk.

State supreme court ruling

New Jersey agents of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations report that the occasions when they make arrests at courthouses are rare. They deal with each immigration case individually before deciding to arrest someone who is coming to the courthouse for unrelated matters. Nevertheless, state supreme court judges and immigration advocates worry that even one arrest will prevent others, perhaps including you, from coming to the courthouse when they need to.

If you are a victim of a crime, a witness to a crime, someone who is facing accusations of committing a crime or the family member of someone who is seeking justice, you certainly want to have the freedom to come to the courthouse without fear of arrest by ICE agents. Therefore, the state supreme court has issued the following directives:

  • ICE agents must show identification to courthouse security and explain why they are there.
  • Whenever possible, ICE agents must give courthouse personnel advance notice of their intention to make an official visit to the courthouse.
  • ICE agents may not make arrests inside a state courthouse unless they have warrants signed by judges, not ICE administrative warrants.
  • Security inside the courthouse must notify a judge or administrator that ICE agents are in the building.
  • Documents the court requires of courtroom participants must ask as little as possible about your immigration status.

If agents follow these rules and arrive at the courthouse with a warrant to arrest you or a member of your party, they must wait until the end of your hearing or trial, and they must conduct their business with as much discretion and privacy as possible unless the situation is an emergency. Nevertheless, if you find yourself facing ICE agents, whether in a courthouse or elsewhere, you would benefit from the assistance of a skilled attorney who will work to protect your rights.

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