NEW YORK (WABC) -- The Brooklyn District Attorney is hoping to send a strong message to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents: stay away from the court system.
Officials say undocumented immigrants can be vital to putting criminals away.
They point to one case of a man who bravely testified in two murder cases and now could soon be facing deportation.
"He's not a bad guy, he's just trying to be with his family," said Marta Mizhquiri, the detainee's wife.
She's the wife of a 34-year-old Bensonhurst man who'd been in this country illegally since 2002.
Mizhquiri is a U.S. citizen and so are their two kids, but for the past month William Siguencia Hurtado, originally from Ecuador, has been detained by ICE after he voluntarily checked in.
"On June 29th he goes to ICE, physically to check in?" Eyewitness News asked.
"Yes, usually like, the previous years, they'd let him go back home, but this time they just told him, it was time for him to go back," Mizhquiri said.
And his case might ordinarily get no attention, but Hurtado was a valuable witness to the Brooklyn DA in two separate murder cases, instrumental in fact.
"We've put five killers in prison and he helped protect our communities, and now, years later, he is in detention," said Eric Gonzalez, Acting Brooklyn District Attorney.
The DA and New York's attorney general on Thursday added that ICE has been making more and more arrests of illegal immigrants right in our courts, public space where immigrants often seek relief, or, as in Hurtado's case, testify against violent criminals.
But now, advocates say, from family court, to criminal court, ICE arrests in courts have increased five-fold across the state.
"It's cruel, it's self-defeating, and clearly in a place like Brooklyn, it makes us less safe," said Eric Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General.
In a statement Thursday, ICE maintained, "Many of the arrest targets ICE seeks out, at or near court houses have prior criminal convictions."
As for the Hurtado family, they'll await a judge's decision. He did have prior arrests, but they were dismissed, more than a decade ago.
Brooklyn man who put 5 killers behind bars, father of 2, could be deported
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