November 28, 2017
Chaos erupted at Brooklyn Criminal Court Tuesday morning after agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement snatched a defendant in the hallway, prompting a walkout by public defenders and accusations from court officers that Legal Aid attorneys had physically attacked them.
Genaro Rojas Hernandez, thirty, was in court to face charges of violating a restraining order. Just after 11 a.m., after a judge asked him and his court-appointed attorney to step into the hallway with a Spanish interpreter, Hernandez was arrested by ICE agents, according to his lawyer, Rebecca Kavanagh. After the arrest, attorneys with the Legal Aid Society stormed out of the courthouse on Schermerhorn Street and held a noisy picket line outside the building, calling on immigration officials to stay out of the courthouse.
The arrest makes Hernandez the fortieth individual taken into custody by immigration enforcement agents inside a New York City courthouse, according to official statistics maintained by the state Office of Court Administration, which operates the courts. That estimate is conservative: The Immigrant Defense Project, an immigrant rights and legal assistance group, keeps its own tally that includes arrests made just outside courthouses. This count puts the number at seventy, with Hernandez the first arrest since two weeks ago when the Voice coveredallegations that court officers were unfairly aiding ICE agents.
Immigration arrests in courthouses have skyrocketed since the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January. ICE’s internal policies tightly regulate agent behavior in certain locations designated as “sensitive,” such as schools and hospitals, but the agency has so far refused to place courthouses into this category. OCA guidelines permit immigration enforcement agents to conduct operations in courthouses’ public areas so long as they identify themselves upon entry and stay out of courtrooms.