State lawmakers on Wednesday approved final passage for a bill that would block federal immigration enforcement officials from New York courthouses without a judicial warrant.
The measure now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk for his consideration.
Democrats who backed the bill, including Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman, urged its final approval.
"We cannot allow our courthouses to become a hunting ground for federal agents attempting to round up immigrant New Yorkers," Hoylman said.
The bill was backed by immigration advocates, who argue the presence of officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has a chilling effect on undocumented immigrants who need to make court appearances. Supporters argue undocumented witnesses are less likely to come forward as witnesses or crime victims if they are fearful of being arrested while attending court.
“Over the past few years, ICE has repeatedly sent a clear message that it would stop at nothing to achieve its cruel, dehumanizing and destructive criminalizing and deportation agenda. In response to our coalition’s work documenting and illustrating the devastating impacts of ICE’s activities, New York’s courts and legislature have taken decisive action to protect our rights,” said Mizue Aizeki, Deputy Director of the Immigrant Defense Project.
“By passing the Protect Our Courts Act, New York’s message to ICE is loud and clear—ICE is the threat and its harmful practices must stop,”
The measure also plunges New York once again into the debate over immigration enforcement in the United States, as cities and states across the country have pledged to not coordinate with ICE and other federal officials.
“The American judicial system was founded on the ideals of equity and equal accessibility to justice for all," said Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, the chairwoman-elect of the Legislature's New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.
"The Protect Our Courts legislation is simply reaffirming our commitment to those very principles. We have seen Federal ICE agents make a concerted effort to use courthouses as a means of entrapment, which in turn has created a hostile environment for individuals seeking recourse from New York courts."