Cuomo’s Dangerous Courthouse Law is Based on Fiction


January 6, 2021

By Tom Homan

New York has had many great governors in its history. Andrew Cuomo is not one of them. He continues to ignore the rising crime rate in his state and largest city and instead is taking steps that will ensure more convicted criminals are walking the streets. Cuomo once again has made his state a protector of criminal illegal aliens. His arguments for these policies would be laughable if they weren’t so misleading and dangerous.  

Cuomo signed a law on Dec. 15 that restricts the ability of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest illegal aliens while they are in state courthouses. To be clear, ICE had already lost a federal court decision on this matter in June, which is being appealed. However, the Democrat-controlled state legislature quickly enacted a law to ensure that illegal immigrants would have a safe haven in state courthouses. That would be the same legislature that has awarded illegal aliens driver’s licenses and passed the ridiculous bail reform law.

The bail reform law and the new state court restriction result in criminals being released onto the streets every day in New York. I don’t care what side of the debate you are on, that fact cannot be denied.

The argument to create the law is based upon a false narrative that arresting illegal aliens in a criminal proceeding at a courthouse sends a chilling effect to victims and witnesses and that they will be afraid to go to court because of fear of being arrested by ICE. The same false narrative is used by politicians to justify sanctuary polices. 

Gov. Cuomo stated that “Unlike this federal government, New York has always protected our immigrant communities. This legislation will ensure every New Yorker can have their day in court without fear of being unfairly targeted by ICE or other federal immigration authorities.”

Both statements are false. The policy will not protect immigrant communities — it only protects criminal illegal aliens. When you release a criminal alien back to the street, data clearly show that they will likely reoffend in the same community in which they live: the immigrant community. This law doesn’t protect anyone but the criminal. It will cause other people in the community to become victims of more crimes.

Also, aliens are not “unfairly targeted” by ICE as Cuomo claims. These are not just people in the U.S. in violation of law, they are also criminals who committed crimes while here illegally. The data clearly show that ICE targets criminals in these courthouses based on records and intelligence. There is nothing unfair about arresting a criminal within the confines of existing law. Data again clearly show that almost 90 percent of all aliens arrested by ICE are either convicted criminals or have pending criminal charges. The governor also refers to these people as immigrants. Wrong; they are illegal immigrants. He purposely tries to mix the two categories. Legal immigrants in this country have abided by the law. Illegal aliens have disrespected this country and broken the law.

In June, U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff issued a judgment against ICE making arrests on state courthouse grounds and stated, “Recent events confirm the need for freely and fully functioning state courts, not least in the State of New York. But it is one thing for the state courts to try to deal with the impediments brought on by a pandemic, and quite another for them to have to grapple with disruptions and intimidations artificially imposed by an agency of the federal government in violation of longstanding privileges and fundamental principles of federalism and of separation of powers.”

This is ridiculous. I would ask the judge why is it not a violation of law for other local, state or federal law enforcement agencies to make an arrest inside a courthouse? Why hasn’t he banned all arrests at courthouses? I have personally witnessed judges ordering someone to be taken in custody while in a middle of a hearing. I have seen people arrested inside a courtroom for failing to pay child support — but ICE cannot arrest a criminal child rapist in a criminal courthouse?

When I was the ICE Director, I personally worked with my team to update the Courthouse Enforcement Policy. The new policy was issued under my signature on Jan. 10, 2018 and can be viewed here.  

See for yourself.

ICE operates in “criminal” courthouses, not family court, and not traffic court.

ICE doesn’t go to courthouses to arrests victims and/or witnesses regardless of their immigration status.

The policy is clear: ICE targets criminals, gang members, national security or public safety threats, aliens who have already had due process and were ordered removed by a federal judge (now a fugitive) and aliens who have illegally entered the U.S. after being formally deported, which is a felony. 

The new law signed by Gov. Cuomo has nothing to do with protecting immigrant communities, and it puts ICE officers at greater risk of harm. Individuals entering courthouses are typically screened by law enforcement personnel to search for weapons and other contraband. Accordingly, immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses can reduce safety risks to the public, targeted alien(s), and ICE officers and agents. 

The anti-border politicians can spin it anyway they want because they choose not to tell the whole story. Read the policy and judge for yourself.

Tom Homan is the former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Also published at: Tom Homan, Cuomo’s dangerous courthouse law is based on fiction, The Hill, January 6, 2021.

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