BROOKLYN — State and local authorities demanded that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stay away from New York City courts.
ICE has arrested more undocumented immigrants at New York courts in the first half of 2017 than the organization did in 2015 and 2016 combined, New York State's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday.
"Courthouses should be treated like churches, hospitals or schools. Identified as sensitive locations where ICE enforcement is to be generally avoided," Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman and Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez spoke out against the growing number of ICE arrests. Their worry is that illegal immigrants won't agree to be witnesses for police or even seek an order of protection or get help with housing or custody.
One undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, William Siguencia Hurtado, testified in 2 court cases and helped put five murderers in prison. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took him into custody this summer when he did his yearly check in.
"I am sad because he's not with us," his wife Marta Mizhquri said. "I'm mad because he shouldn't be detained. He's not a criminal. He was helping out. It's not fair."
While Siguencia Hurtado is here illegally, his wife and two young children are U.S. citizens. For several years, his lawyer has worked to get him legal residency.
"I am calling for him to be immediately released and be given the opportunity to stay here lawfully," Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez said.
While Siguencia Hurtado wasn't picked up in court, local officials said they worry his arrest sends a message to other illegal immigrants that it doesn't pay to help.
In a statement to PIX11 News, ICE said in part, "It's important to note that many of the arrest targets ICE seeks out at or near courthouses have prior criminal convictions in the U.S."
Siguencia Hurtado has no criminal convictions, but his immigration lawyer believes he was targeted due to a failure to show up for a deportation hearing more than a decade ago.
"He's since tried to clear his name," attorney Karen De La Cruz said.