BROOKLYN — State and local law enforcement officials called on federal immigration authorities to stop conducting raids in courthouses after an undocumented witness who testified in two Brooklyn homicide cases was detained in June.
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday that ICE officials should “recalibrate their priorities so crime victims and witnesses are not targeted for removal proceedings.”
Immigration arrests and attempted arrests in state courts spiked by more than 400 percent this year, according to the Immigrant Defense Project, with 60 incidents in New York so far in 2017 compared to 11 for all of 2016.
“The federal authorities claim they are making America safe again, but the truth is that their immigration enforcement policies are making all of us less safe,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
“We encounter more and more victims and eyewitnesses to crime who are fearful of moving forward because of immigration status, and we see arrests by ICE spiking in our courthouses, including Family Court and courts dedicated to helping human trafficking victims and those with mental health issues.”
William Siguencia Hurtado, 34, who has lived in the U.S. since 2002 and is married to an American citizen with whom he has two children, testified in a 2012 fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man outside and Bensonhurst club and provided statements to the DA in another murder case, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.
He was arrested on June 29 after President Donald Trump called for a crackdown on illegal immigration and is currently being detained in Lower Manhattan while he fights deportation.
“It is very upsetting that despite his contributions to public safety, and the fact that he is married to a U.S. citizen and is the father of U.S. citizens, federal immigration authorities have detained him and are trying to separate him from his wife and children,” Gonzalez said about the arrest.
ICE officials also recently arrested three people outside Queens Criminal Court after activists said they arrived to detain a woman who may have been a victim of human trafficking.
An agency spokeswoman said in a statement ICE conducts arrests daily around the country to "protect public safety, border security, and the integrity of the nation’s immigration system."
ICE will often make arrests around courthouses when seeking out people with prior criminal conviction, spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow added.
"In years past, most of these individuals would have been turned over to ICE by local authorities upon their release from jail based on ICE detainers," Yow said. "Now that many sanctuary cities, including New York City, do not honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat."