Immigration agents grabbed an undocumented Ivory Coast man Thursday outside Bronx Criminal Court, sparking an impromptu protest by public defenders.
Aboubacar Dembele, 27, was brought to the U.S. when he was 3 years old and had no prior criminal record, his wife, Zaquera Lanier said. He’d applied for “Dreamer” status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, but was banned last year.
He had another DACA application pending and was searching a green card through his wife, who is an American citizen.
“He goes to work and comes home. He’s a good person making an honest living. He’s a family man. He’s just like everybody else,” Lanier said, steps away from where her husband had been grabbed by ICE agents.
Around 75 attorneys from the Legal Aid Society and Bronx Defenders shared her outrage. Their protest brought many afternoon proceedings at the E. 161st St. courthouse to a halt.
An ICE spokeswoman said Dembele “entered the United States without inspection at an unknown date and time,” and that he had an active “detainer” order filed against him when he left court.
Dembele faced felony assault charges after he punched out another man’s two front teeth on a city bus Dec. 15, according to a criminal complaint.
Legal Aid Society agent Redmond Haskins said the case was reduced to a misdemeanor, though the court’s online docket still displayed Dembele charged with felonies as of Thursday night.
Dembele, who is in community college and works full-time as a barista, had planned to accompany his wife to an OB-GYN appointment after his court appearance. He and Lanier were planning to begin a family.
“They targeted him arbitrarily, from my perspective. He shouldn’t have been a priority,” Legal Aid attorney Casey Dalporto said.
Sightings of ICE agents in or near courthouses around New York State spiked from 11 in 2016 to 139 last year, according to a tally by the Immigrant Defense Project.