NEW YORK (AP) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents looking to make arrests inside courthouses in New York can't do so without judicial warrants or orders, according to a directive from the New York State Office of Court Administration that took effect Wednesday.

The move was hailed by immigration advocates, who said courthouses in New York and elsewhere under the Trump administration have increasingly become places where immigrants appearing on unrelated matters have been taken into federal immigration custody.

A report by the Immigrant Defense Project said there were 178 arrests in New York state courthouses last year compared to 11 in 2016, and advocates have said immigrants are increasingly fearful to visit courts as a result.

Lawyers who represent immigrants have engaged in walkouts and protests over the issue.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said the state courts had been asked to adopt the policy for some time, and the report was convincing enough to spur the change.

"Judges can't do their jobs unless people come to court," he said.

ICE did not immediately comment.

Under the policy, ICE officials must present a warrant or order issued by a federal judge which would be reviewed by a New York judge or court attorney before making an arrest.

Judicial warrants are separate from administrative warrants, which ICE also uses in its operations but that are not signed by judges.

The rules apply to inside courthouses, and don't impact ICE operations outside of them.

"This new rule will truly help protect immigrant New Yorkers from the pervasive and rampant immigration enforcement at courthouses that we have seen on a regular basis since the start of the Trump Administration," said Janet Sabel of The Legal Aid Society. "In order for our judicial system to function properly, all immigrants — including our clients who have been accused of a crime, parents appearing in family court, and survivors of abuse, among others — must have unimpeded access to courts."

Advocates called on elected officials to pass legislation that would put similar protections into law.


Deepti Hajela covers issues of race, ethnicity and immigration for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at . For more of her work, search for her name at .

More From WIBX 950