The state's top judges are asking federal immigration officials to stop deporting immigrants awaiting trial in Massachusetts for crimes as serious as assault to murder and child rape.

In a letter to the acting field director of the Massachusetts Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey wrote that at least 13 defendants indicted for felonies including drug trafficking, child rape and assault, and murder will not face justice in Massachusetts because federal authorities removed them from the country without alerting the courts or prosecutors.

The judges say ICE's deportations irreparably interfere with the state criminal justice process. A spokesperson for ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Among other things, it prevents victims from having their day in court, denies defendants the opportunity to be exonerated, and allows defendants who would otherwise be convicted to escape punishment," Gants and Carey wrote.

In one instance, the state had to expend "extraordinary resources" to extradite a defendant back to the United States from the Dominican Republic to face trial for three counts of raping a child under 16, according to the letter. Jose Ortega was released on bail in May 2014 and was deported before his next hearing on June 6, 2014. Massachusetts officials worked for five years to extradite Ortega back to Boston to face trial.

In the other twelve cases, district attorneys were forced to give up on prosecutions after the defendant was deported.

Gants and Carey also wrote that the 13 cases serve only as "illustrative examples of a pattern of conduct" that is also affecting the district courts.

"In the interests of justice, we strongly urge you to cease the removal of defendants by ICE during the pendency of criminal charges in our state courts without advance notice to the court and the relevant district attorney," the judges wrote.

The judges ask Marco Charles, the acting field director, to "confirm in writing that ICE will cease its practice of removing state criminal defendants pending trial without advance notice to the court and the relevant district attorney."