Nydia Velazquez Denounces Courthouse Arrest Of Illegal Immigrant Facing Domestic Violence Charges

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez denounced immigration authorities for arresting an illegal immigrant inside a New York City courthouse on Friday, saying the controversial tactic “has no place” in the city.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents nabbed Panamanian national Diogenes Pinzon as he walked out of an eighth-floor courtroom in Brooklyn Criminal Court Friday morning, reported the New York Daily News, citing court officials.

Pinzon, an illegal immigrant with a long criminal history, was in court fighting domestic violence charges in connection with allegations that he robbed and threatened his girlfriend in May 2017. The 38-year-old Pinzon has been arrested 15 times since 2005, authorities say.

Velazquez joined a chorus of immigration activists who cried foul because ICE agents had quietly entered the courthouse to carry out the arrest.

“Extremely concerning to hear that ICE agents targeted an undocumented immigrant just outside Brooklyn Criminal Court this morning,” the New York congresswoman wrote on Twitter. “Such actions by ICE have no place in our City & I will be monitoring the situation carefully.”

ICE has defended the practice of arresting illegal immigrants when they appear in state and local courts, arguing it is necessary in sanctuary cities like New York, which limit cooperation between jail officials and immigration agents. Unlike schools and churches, ICE does not consider courthouses to be “sensitive locations” where agents are to avoid making arrests.

“Absent a viable address for a residence or place of employment, a courthouse may afford the most likely opportunity to locate a target and take him or her into custody,” an ICE spokesman told the Daily News.

Lawyers from two legal aid groups, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society, organized a demonstration outside the Brooklyn courthouse in protest of Pinzon’s arrest. Similar protests were held outside the Bronx Criminal Court in February, when ICE detained an illegal alien from Ivory Coast following his court appearance there.

“We are appalled by yet another courthouse arrest by ICE,” the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services said Friday in a joint statement. “If the people we represent cannot safely appear in court to participate in their own defense — and, further, are sanctioned with warrants for not appearing — then the integrity of the whole system must be questioned.”

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