The protest and ongoing occupation of an ICE building in lower Manhattan has caused federal immigration authorities to halt some operations at the facility, including all bond hearings scheduled for Monday at the Varick Street Immigration Court.
In an email sent out late Sunday, immigration attorneys were informed by Department of Justice officials that "there will be no cases heard at Varick Street on Monday due to the protests." An ICE spokesperson did not respond to inquiries about whether agents were still using the building, but a rep from the Department of Justice confirmed the closure.
The interruption in cases comes four days after protesters with the growing "Occupy ICE" movement began gathering on the loading docks of the 201 Varick Street building, which serves as both a processing center and temporary detention facility for immigrants arrested in the city.
Led by anarchist group MACC NYC, the demonstrators have formed what they call a "rolling occupation," with the goal of amassing enough people to fully blockade ICE agents from exiting the building or transferring immigrants to any of the five county jails outside the city. Some activists have taken shifts camping out overnight, including Chelsea Manning, who stayed on Sunday evening.
"We don't want these vans to go where they're trying to go, so the more bodies we have here, the better our chances will be," said Kim Kelly, an organizer with MACC and Occupy ICE. One person was arrested after protesters attempted to block a van on Thursday, according to the NYPD.
@macc_nyc getting thrown to the ground by law enforcement as they attempt to block an I.C.E. van at 201 Varick St. #EndFamilySeparation #EndFamilyDetention #AbolishICE Filmed by Mark Apolloa pic.twitter.com/XnygOaie1l
— Rise and Resist (@riseandresistny) June 23, 2018
About 40 people at 201 Varick right now for #occupyicenyc, and several who plan to stay over night. @macc_nyc is calling on NYers to show up en masse early tomorrow. Goal is to block ICE vans carrying immigrants to detention. "Bring bodies not tents," says one occupier. pic.twitter.com/hmMaQzBrwF
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) June 25, 2018
On Sunday night, protesters reacted to news of the temporary stoppage in court cases with a mix of delight, distrust, and shock—"holy shit, it actually worked," remarked one occupier. But legal observers at the demonstration warned against celebrating what they fear is a hollow victory with far-reaching consequences.
"Even though people have shown that they have the power to confront this facility, the decision is in some ways in ICE's favor, because it could prolong the detention of people who may have had a hearing tomorrow," said one attorney who works out of 201 Varick Street.
The attorney noted that some detainees — many of whom are booked at Varick but transferred to jails in New Jersey or upstate New York —would likely remain detained until their next hearing, which could take six weeks. "At the same time," she said, "it could also prolong the deportation process."
Members of MACC have also responded to the news, noting in a statement early Monday that ICE was trying to scapegoat activists, and insisting that "the responsibility for their cruel detention practices remains with them." The group is calling on more New Yorkers to show up at the Varick facility to continue protesting ICE's presence in New York City, among other demands. The local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America also announced on Sunday that members would be occupying a vacant lot across the street from the facility.
As of Monday morning, a few dozen protesters remained at the facility, even as DHS officials arrived to hose down the anti-ICE chalk on the sidewalk. "We're committed to occupying this space for as long as we can," explained Kelly. "We still want regular New Yorkers to come out and stand in support. Don't send us granola bars — just bring your friends and show up."
UPDATE: Rachael Yong Yow, a spokesperson for ICE, gave the following statement to Gothamist: "Due to attempts by certain groups to disrupt ICE operations through spreading misinformation and advocating violence against ICE employees, ICE decided to suspend transport of detainees to the Varick Street office on Monday, June 25. This decision was made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees."