BY JON CRONIN
Two undocumented immigrants were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on April 10 outside the Queens Criminal Courthouse in Kew Gardens on the same day as an anti-ICE protest by the Legal Aid Society in front of the courthouse.
Both immigrants are represented by the Legal Aid Society. Ioana Calin, an attorney with the group in Queens, said that neither immigrant had a criminal record. She added that one of them is in his early 20s and attending college full time, while the other is in his mid-30s and employed full time. Calin said both clients had showed up for all their court appointments.
Calin—who would not give either of her clients’ names for fear of retribution against their families—said that one case is still pending in court. She noted that if the prosecutors in the case did not produce specific data in the next 12 days, the case against her clients would be dismissed.
The college student was in court to receive community service for disorderly conduct, which Calin pointed out is a violation, but not a crime. She added that he went to the courthouse to be assigned his community service and was then picked up by ICE agents.
Calin recalled that the ICE agents refused to identify themselves, but the Legal Aid Society was able to confirm their identity through a conversation with court officers.
Calin noted that the ICE agents would not say where either of her clients was being taken.
The second client had a case before a judge that day. The Legal Aid Society confirmed that ICE was at the courthouse for its client. The society asked the judge to set bail for the client so he could go into the Department of Correction’s custody, but the judge refused. The case was adjourned until a later date, and when the client left the courthouse, he was handcuffed by ICE agents and placed in a van.
Calin said she doesn’t know if she will be able to contact either client ever again. She added that ICE could make a determination on releasing them on bond. The immigration battle would be handled as a civil case, and people only get attorneys in criminal cases.
She said that the clients could get an attorney through the New York Immigrants Family Unity Program, which is staffed by the Legal Aid Society and both the Brooklyn and Bronx Defender services. She said that the caveat in obtaining a lawyer from such services is that the organizations have a cap on the number of cases on which they work.
Calin also noted that people detained on immigration-related charges often choose to give up their rights.
“It is a voluntary departure, if a judge agrees to it,” she said. “Basically it is to say, ‘I will go on my own.’”
At noon on April 10—prior to ICE’s arrests of its clients—the Legal Aid Society had planned to walk out of the courthouse and protest the presence of ICE in courthouses. Participants held signs that read “Our Clients Show Up, Don’t Let ICE Take Them.” They also chanted, “No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”