ICE Limits Access To Lawyers For NYC Immigrants In Detention, Citing Protests
Advocates decry court's shift to using teleconferencing for hearings.
Emma Whitford Jun 27, 2018
On Sunday, President Trump called for abandoning due process for immigrants, tweeting, “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.” In New York City, public defenders say ICE is showing a similar disregard, preventing detained immigrants from meeting with lawyers—and blaming it on protests nearby.
Members of the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) launched an occupation of the immigration court at 201 Varick St. last week, inspired by similar ICE facility occupations cropping up nationally. Dozens of activists set up tarps and folding chairs in front of the building’s loading docks to prevent Department of Homeland Security vans from entering or exiting the building with detainees.
On Monday, ICE announced that all hearings at 201 Varick St. were canceled for the day. “This decision was made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees,” ICE spokesperson Rachael Yong Yow told The Appeal.
Occupiers agreed to move across the street and clear the loading dock areas Monday night, however, after public defenders and immigrant groups, including New Sanctuary NYC and Make the Road New York, stressed the negative consequences of disrupting bond hearings and other hearings aimed at client relief. “We wanted to work with immigrant communities,” Marisa Holmes, a spokesperson for MACC, said Tuesday. “We think being on the other side of the street is allowing hearings to continue, which is important.”
Yet ICE continued to refuse to transport detainees to the courthouse, citing safety concerns. The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the court, confirmed Tuesday that rather than in-person hearings, it would use teleconferencing for all deportation and bond hearings, in which a defendant appears on a screen in the courtroom. Amanda St. Jean, a spokeswoman for the immigration review office confirmed the plan to use teleconferencing until it hears otherwise from ICE. It remained in place Wednesday, even though the occupation had dispersed entirely. “I think this claim that they are concerned about safety sounds like an excuse to punish the occupiers by punishing our clients,” said Scott Hechinger, senior staff attorney and director of policy for Brooklyn Defender Services.