Immigration Law

About 100 public defenders protest outside courthouse after ICE arrest; lawyer tells of 'chaos'

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About 100 public defenders staged a protest Tuesday outside the criminal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, after agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested a defendant who was in court for a domestic violence charge.

The defendant’s lawyer, Rebecca Kavanagh, told the Village Voice that court officers assisting in the arrest held her back as she tried to take photos of the incident. But the Office of Court Administration presented a different version of events. According to spokesman Lucian Chalfen, the Legal Aid Society lawyers “tried to yank the defendant away.”

The Office of Court Administration says the arrest is the 40th by immigration agents inside a New York City courthouse. The tally grows to 70 when arrests made just outside the courthouse are included, according to the Immigrant Defense Project.

The New York Daily News and Patch are among the publications covering the protest that followed the arrest of the defendant, Genaro Rojas Hernandez. Protesters chanted “ICE-free NYC” and “Hell no, ICE must go.”

Dennis Quirk, the president of the New York State Court Officers Association, gave his version of events to the Village Voice. He maintains lawyers told Hernandez to run and ICE agents intercepted him, spurring a struggle. According to Quirk, legal aid lawyers “pushed court officers, they struck court officers, they hit court officers. They did the same thing to the ICE agents.”

Kavanaugh denies Quirk’s allegations in an interview with the Village Voice and on Twitter. “Chaos ensued” after she was held back while trying to take photos, she said. “ICE agents pounced on my client, and because I was still attempting to speak to my client, I got carried with them to the doors. My client was pushed through the doors, and the sergeant of the court part pushed me back,” she said.

Another legal aid lawyer, Jane Sampeur backed up Kavanaugh’s account in a Village Voice interview. “She just kept insisting on speaking with her client,” Sampeur said. “But there were a number of very strong agents, and no matter how many times Ms. Kavanagh went to the gym, I assure you there’s nothing she would have been able to do to interfere with that arrest.”

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