In a joint press conference last week, acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman criticized the increase in ICE arrests.
“Enforcement policies are having a chilling effect on our ability to keep our communities safe,” said Gonzalez.
According to Gonzalez, under President Donald Trump’s administration, ICE has said its enforcement policies are focused on violent criminals who are here illegally, however that hasn’t always been the case.
“What we’re seeing on the ground is their enforcement policies are much broader than that,” he said. “And we’re seeing that ICE is going after witnesses, they’re going after victims of crime, and their going after people who are being charged with low-level offenses.”
William Hurtado, a Brooklyn livery-cab driver and father of two who is married to a U.S. citizen and submitted an application for legal residency, was taken in by ICE earlier this summer. On two separate occasions, Hurtado has served as a witness in homicide cases.
“He fully cooperated with the New York City Police Department, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the prosecution of these cases,” Gonzalez said. “In the first case that he testified, he did so even though there were threats against him.
“I believe that he was not only brave in coming forward but he went far beyond what most people would do,” he added.
Not only did Hurtado witness the first homicide, but weeks later he saw the perpetrators in the street and called police.
“We put five killers in prison,” Gonzalez said. “He helped protect our communities. And now, years later, he is in detention and facing removal. I’m sure if you asked the families who lost loved ones, William Hurtado is a hero to them.”
The impact is being felt in courtrooms, which Gonzalez is calling on ICE to treat as “sensitive locations” similar to schools, hospitals and houses of worship.
In 2017, there have been eight cases of ICE entering courtrooms to make arrests in Brooklyn and 60 in New York State. In 2016, there were 11 such cases in the entire state of New York.
“These are people, some of them, that have not even been convicted of a crime,” Gonzalez said. “That does not bode well for us when our witnesses do not feel safe to come to court.”
Gonzalez said earlier this year a woman called his office and said she was having concerns with her son, who had allegedly been hitting her and taking advantage of her financially. She said she believed her son had a drug problem and was hoping to get him into a treatment program.
“Unfortunately, she’s now reluctant to testify,” he said. “Her son is here legally, he has a green card, but she’s afraid that as part of the process that he’ll be subject to deportation.”