We Are Suing ICE

Today, Sanctuary for Families and fellow advocates announced the filing of a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenging the legality of the ICE’s practice of making civil immigration arrests without a judicial warrant or court order in and around New York State courthouses.

The lawsuit, filed by The Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gottlieb, seeks a permanent injunction ordering the halt of ICE courthouse enforcement on behalf of an individual plaintiff, a noncitizen domestic violence survivor who needed to appear in court for an order of protection, but feared the risk of an ICE arrest coming to a courthouse. Fellow plaintiffs include Make the Road New York, Urban Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families, The Door and the New York Immigration Coalition.


Since President Trump’s inauguration, ICE courthouse arrests have skyrocketed by over 1700% in New York, leading to a widespread chilling effect on noncitizens’ willingness to initiate and participate in the judicial system. Nearly 400 immigrants—both undocumented and those with legal status—have been arrested while appearing in and around State courts since January 2017, including those accused of a crime; parents appearing in child support matters; survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes; people who are mentally ill or homeless; and LGBTQ+ individuals; among others.

Moreover, ICE courthouse arrests disrupt court functions, trample the due process rights of the accused, imperil public safety, and deter immigrants from reporting crimes. By using the court system to trap immigrants for detention and deportation, ICE is effectively keeping immigrants from ever accessing State courts in the first place and actively interfering with and violating the rights of individuals, associations, and organizations across the State.


At today’s joint press conference, Sanctuary ED Hon. Judy H. Kluger said:

“There is no question that the presence of ICE in our courthouses is subverting justice and putting lives at risk.

At Sanctuary for Families, 70% of the clients we serve are immigrants who rely on the courts for orders of protection against their abusers, child custody and support determinations and the remedies of our criminal courts, all crucial to their and their children’s safety.

As word of ICE’s courthouse arrests spread, our non-citizen clients grew increasingly fearful of getting help from the courts.

In fact, between 2017 and 2018, Sanctuary had fewer clients who were willing to seek orders of protection, and our clients repeatedly express concerns about accessing the courts.
The threat of arrest forces immigrant victims of gender violence to make the impossible choice between their safety and the risk of deportation.

We cannot and must not stand by and allow this miscarriage of justice to continue any longer.

As a former judge, I know the importance of courts as safe havens for all who seek its remedies. The fair administration of justice depends on it. And the threat of ICE interference undermines it.

Sanctuary for Families stands proudly in solidarity with The Legal Aid Society, Cleary Gottlieb, our fellow plaintiffs, and thousands of innocent victims, as we seek a permanent injunction against ICE’s unconstitutional courthouse arrests.

Our courts must remain places where all people have equal access to justice regardless of their immigration status. The lawsuit we are filing today is a necessary step toward reaching this goal.

Thank you.”

Learn more about the impact of ICE courthouse arrests on immigrant survivors: