ACLU: Federal Agencies Set ‘Traps’ for Immigrants Seeking Legal Status

By Alfonso Serrano Aug 14, 2018

Emails included in a document filed in a Boston court on Monday (August 13) show that two federal agencies allegedly coordinated to lure immigrants of undocumented status seeking legal residency into interviews in federal offices before arresting and, in some cases, deporting them.

A motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set "traps" for undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens seeking residency. The interviews, the motion claims, were spaced out so that the public would be unaware of the arrests, according to The Boston Globe.

"As far as scheduling goes, I would prefer not to do them all at one time as it is [not] only a strain on our ability to transport and process several arrests at once, but it also has the potential to be a trigger for negative media interests, as we have seen in the past," wrote ICE agent Andrew Graham to an USCIS employee, according to the ACLU.

In April, the civil rights group filed a class action suit against President Donald Trump and the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of five immigrants and their spouses. The suit challenges the Trump administration’s "pattern" of separating married couples seeking lawful immigration status. 

The suit claims that ICE has adopted the practice of detaining and seeking to deport immigrants pursuing lawful immigration status while remaining in the U.S. with their families. 

"The Trump administration has relentlessly pursued detaining and deporting as many immigrants as possible, no matter the costs to family unity and civil rights," Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said after filing the suit. "This class action lawsuit seeks justice for all the families—the married couples, the mothers, the fathers—torn apart by this administration."

On Monday, spokespeople for ICE and USCIS declined to comment on the ACLU motion, citing the ongoing litigation. According to ACLU attorneys, ICE has admitted that its agents detained 17 people in the New England area seeking legal status via their families. Some of those immigrants have been deported, the ACLU says.

Emails obtained through the suit show that USCIS and ICE collaborated to bring immigrants in to interviews so they could be detained. The correspondences show that USCIS officials gave ICE a list of people who had petitioned for legal residency, and that ICE then zeroed in on immigrants with significant circumstances for arrest, such as a criminal record.

"In my opinion, it makes sense for us to arrest aliens with final removal orders as they represent the end of the line in the removal process," wrote Graham, the ICE agent, in an email obtained by the ACLU. "They are typically the easiest to remove…and at the end of the day we are in the removal business and it’s our job to locate and arrest them."