Gov. Cuomo condemns ICE arrest tactics, threatens lawsuit

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday issued a cease and desist letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, demanding an end to what he believes are reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions. He is also threatening legal action.

It comes a day after a man was arrested by ICE officers inside the Supreme Court building in St. George on Staten Island, the first time it is believed they have detained someone in the state courthouse.

Cuomo, who was joined by immigration advocates at a Midtown press conference, said it signals aggressive new tactics by ICE officers in this and other cases.

"ICE is violating the law and endangering public safety in all of those instances," he said.

Gonzalo Mercado, executive director of La Colmena, works with many immigrant families on Staten Island.

"We have seen a spike in raids which is inflicting fear in the community," he said.

After Tuesday's arrest, Legal Aid Society attorneys protested what they claim is a due process issue.

"A courthouse is a safe space where people come to resolve disputes and get justice," staff attorney Gillian Kress said. "It's having a chilling effect on not just defendants, but on crime victims, witnesses and family members."

The governor also plans further action.

"I'll also be executing an executive order that says ICE cannot enter a state facility or state building without a valid judicial warrant," Cuomo said.

John Collins, a farm owner from Rome, New York, joined the governor in calling for action after he witnessed one of his employees arrested by ICE officers during a raid that Cuomo said was illegal.

"This experience has left me deeply concerned with the outreach and aggressive tactics used by ICE," he said. "Our officers showed no respect for me, my employees or the rule of law."

Collins said the agents did not produce a warrant or identify themselves and handcuffed him when he tried to videotape the incident. He said they also destroyed his cellphone.

Cuomo said the officers' conduct violated the Constitution and basic provisions of state and federal law. ICE has said that it did have a warrant.

Others are encouraging protests and speaking out. Alina Das is a professor of clinical law and co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law.

"These are an important way of signaling to ICE that we are not going to tolerate bullying tactics, any attempt at trying to intimidate us," Das said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fired back in response to Cuomo's letter.

"Gov. Cuomo's disregard for the rule of law is a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women of ICE whose mission it is to uphold the laws Congress passed," spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement.

* More local news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.