Last week outside of a Brooklyn courthouse, four undocumented immigrants were arrested by ICE officers in plainclothes. These arrests bring up two distinct issues of precedent and legality: Whether courthouses are an appropriate place for arrests, and whether officers must identify themselves during an arrest.
Under Trump’s administration, courthouse arrests have become more frequent, causing concern among most immigration activists and lawyers. Courthouses are not included on the list of “sensitive places” such as schools and places of worship, where arrests should not be made. However, many courthouses such as in the case of the New York Unified Court System, have distinct rules set into place as to how arrests will take place.
The plainclothes officers were said to have spoken to an Assistant District Attorney, then exited the building and made the arrests outside of the courthouse. When asked by reporters, the officers would not identify themselves, which is unfortunately legal in certain situations. ICE officials do not always have to identify themselves in circumstances in which they are in danger, and they have the ability to decide their level of visibility to the public.
Courthouses are not on the list of “sensitive places” but shouldn’t they be? Undocumented immigrants having show up in court, whether it be on unrelated charges or on no charges at all, should not have to fear arrest. This precedent also puts those who need court assistance in the position of having to decide if they are safe in these places. Courthouses should be included on this list of “sensitive places”, because this gap leaves immigrants vulnerable to unwarranted arrest.
Although ICE officers have the ability to decide their level of visibility, they are taking advantage of this system to make dishonest arrests. Refusing to identify themselves to the public, or to the immigrant being arrested, creates a breeding ground for distrust and mass fear.