NYC Council Speaker in Talks With State’s Chief Judge to Boot ICE Agents From Court System

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at her first-ever National Conference on Sanctuary Cities. Madina Toure/Observer

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that she has been “aggressively” pushing Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to figure out how to limit the presence of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the city’s courts—where advocates report the federal agents have snatched up foreign nationals awaiting processing.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared yesterday that all cities seeking Department of Justice grants would have to comply with all ICE orders, and that his office would even look to “claw back” monies disbursed to so-called “sanctuary cities”—municipalities like New York where local law enforcement refuses to honor federal requests to detain nonviolent undocumented immigrants. Speaking at day two of the first-ever National Conference on Sanctuary Cities at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Mark-Viverito told reporter that she has met recently with DiFiore in hopes of ending “disruption” that has resulted from ICE agents’ presence in state court buildings, which the jurist controls.

“I had an initial conversation and meeting with the Chief Judge in New York to talk about the court stuff,” she said. “I believe we’re putting it on our radar and we’ve been following up pretty aggressively with her about it to figure [it] out.”

She noted that California Chief Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye recently wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asking them to keep ICE agents from “stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.”

“We told the Chief Judge here, we were saying that it’s disruptive,” Mark-Viverito continued. “You have maybe witnesses of crimes that will hesitate to come in, right…so there is already a disruption happening and yea, we’re looking at it, especially in buildings that are city-owned, properties that are city-owned…like what level of, what can we do to limit ICE having a presence there.”

The New York State Unified Court System did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump signed several executive orders shortly after taking office in January, one of which aimed to sever federal funding to sanctuary cities, and another that made any foreign national accused of any crime vulnerable to deportation.

In response, the city has barred ICE officers from entering school buildings without a warrant, and Mark-Viverito has proposed preventing them from entering any public space on any city property. She said today that the Council might look to create a new category of offenses to limit the application of the president’s fiat.

She has also proposed expanding the NYPD and Department of Corrections’ noncompliance protocols to the Department of Probation.

Mark-Viverito has said that the city’s general policy of non-cooperation with ICE has helped to lower crime throughout the city and that since then, undocumented victims and witnesses feel safer approaching the police. She reiterated vows to sue the Trump administration should it seek to cut off funding for the city—pointing to past Supreme Court decisions that barred Congress from cutting off funding for municipalities for coercive purposes.

“Everything we’re doing is legal, we have the right as a city to do what we’re doing so if they try to take funds away that are unrelated,” she said. “For instance, they’re taking away from counterterrorism from the NYPD, that could be considered related, right, but you can’t take money away from housing or from other social services just because we’re not doing what they want us to do.”

NYC Council Speaker in Talks With State’s Chief Judge to Boot ICE Agents From Court System