When Floyel Stapleton appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court for a routine hearing in his misdemeanor assault case, he was stunned to be met by federal immigration agents as he left the courtroom.
“I didn’t know they were there. They were in plain clothes. They had no badges and they arrested me when I was walking out of the courtroom. They just asked my name and they arrested me,” Stapleton, 39, who is from the Caribbean island of Nevis, told the Daily News from an immigration detention center in Hudson County.
“They are trying to deport me…The situation sucks.”
Stapleton’s arrest on Feb. 21 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes amid a growing debate about whether immigration agents should be allowed in the city’s 31 courthouses at all.
President Trump has promised a surge in immigration enforcement, creating an atmosphere of fear among many of New York’s immigrant communities that extends to the courtroom.
The Office of Court Administration has confirmed only two arrests by ICE in city courthouses since mid-February. ICE agents have also been spotted in court on three other occasions, inquiring about certain defendants or lingering in arraignments, according to OCA.
“The Chief Administrative Judge and other senior court administration officials are closely monitoring the appearance of ICE agents in our court facilities,” OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said, noting the small number of “verified” ICE appearances.
“Since we began monitoring the situation, we have verified five interactions with defendants in New York City court facilities, resulting in two arrests.”Stapleton’s long rap sheet reflects the complexity of the issue.
He was convicted multiple times for selling drugs and domestic violence. He told The News ICE attempted to deport him in 2007 but released him for reasons that were unclear.
His sister, meanwhile, told The News she loved him and that the family depended on him.
By SHAYNA JACOBS, MEGAN CERULLO, STEPHEN REX BROWN for NY DAILY NEWS
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