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Immigration Offices Coordinated to ‘Trap’ People Legally Seeking Green Cards, ACLU Alleges

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been coordinating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “trap” immigrants following legal processes to obtain green cards, the ACLU alleges.

In federal court filings released this week, the ACLU recounts instances of immigrants showing up for scheduled immigration interviews, only to be arrested by ICE officers who were notified of the appointment. The class-action lawsuit defends immigrants who have been arrested or deported while seeking legal status through their family members.

Most of those arrested were going to an interview to prove the legitimacy of their marriage to a U.S. citizen when ICE agents showed up, The Washington Post reports. These immigrants, although technically eligible for deportation, should be protected while they seek their green card, according to rules set under the Obama administration.

“The government created this path for them to seek a green card,” Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, told the Associated Press. “The government can’t create that path and then arrest folks for following that path.”

Emails cited in the court filings show ICE officers discussing scheduling with USCIS, requesting the interviews with immigrants be spaced out to avoid drawing attention to the number of arrests.

“As far as scheduling goes, I would prefer not to do them all at one time as it is 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,” Andrew Graham, an ICE officer, wrote to Citizenship and Immigration Services last October, according to court filings.

The Boston Globe reports that ICE agents in the local office admit to detaining 17 individuals at government offices throughout New England this year, where they were seeking their green card through legal paths.

An ICE spokesperson defended the coordination between offices in a statement to the Post Wednesday.

“This routine coordination within the Department of Homeland Security, not unlike the cooperative efforts we maintain with many other federal partners, is lawful and legitimate in the work we do to uphold our nation’s immigration laws,” said the spokesperson.