Ann Elise McCaffrey, Esq.


from the world of immigration law and defense

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Will ICE Look for Me at Criminal Court?

Yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") announced that it will continue to arrest individuals inside criminal court. ICE stated that making immigration arrests at criminal court is both legal and safer for the public. As the number of people in New York City who are arrested by ICE in and around criminal courthouses grows, here is what you should know. Even though the possibility of being picked up ICE agents at a criminal court hearing is scary, you can still protect yourself:

  1. Talk to an immigration lawyer now. Anyone with a recent arrest should talk to an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Find an attorney who is specialized in the crossover between criminal law and immigration law. You need to know what options you have for fighting a deportation case before you are arrested by ICE. Although some people are released, most people will be detained by ICE after an immigration arrest.
  2. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about your immigration status and whether you have been deported in the past. Your criminal defense attorney should know about your particular immigration status and immigration history before ICE agents look for you at court. If you do not have this conversation with your criminal defense attorney, she cannot advise you properly about your criminal case.
  3. Learn about the legal protections you have. ICE agents can arrest people appearing at criminal court (for now). But New York City laws prevent ICE agents from arresting people from jail or in NYPD custody. By speaking to a lawyer, you can learn about what protections you have.
  4. Figure out if you are at risk for ICE arrest. ICE agents typically look for people who have prior deportations or old criminal convictions. But ICE agents can arrest anyone at criminal court who is undocumented. See Step #1 Talk to an Immigration Lawyer. If you do not know what your criminal history is, you can do a fingerprint criminal history search or request the certificates of disposition from the boro where you were arrested.
  5. Know Your Rights! Whether ICE agents approach you at court or on the street or at home, know what to do. You do not have to give your name or say where you were born. You can say, "I wish to remain silent" or ask if you are being arrested. If you are being arrested, then do not answer any questions and ask to speak to your lawyer. Do not sign any documents and do not lie. For more information about your rights, go here


Other things to know:

  • ICE claims that it will not arrest anyone at non-criminal courts like Family Court or Small Claims Court.
  • ICE claims that agents will not arrest family members or friends who are in court with the person getting arrested. ICE also claims that agents will not arrest anyone who is in court to appear as a witness.  But, ICE agents may arrest anyone they encounter at criminal court and makes no guarantees.
  • ICE agents are going to criminal court to look for certain individuals on the dates that they have a court hearing. You can still go into the criminal court building to request your dispositions or speak to the clerk's office.

Call my office to schedule a consultation so that I can advise you on whether you are at risk of an ICE arrest at criminal court.

Elise McCaffrey