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'It Was a Set-Up': Internal Docs Show How US Agencies Arranged Marital Status Interviews with Immigrants, Then Arrested and Deported Them

"Every one of these instances is about a family that has a citizen and a noncitizen, and probably children...Here we have a trap laid out to separate them."

ICE has coordinated with Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to arrange interviews with undocumented immigrants seeking legal residency through their spouses—so that ICE can then arrest and deport them at immigration offices. (Photo: Getty)

Essentially entrapping undocumented immigrants trying to obtain legal residency, newly unsealed documents show that two federal agencies coordinated with one another in an effort to get people seeking U.S. green cards to show up at government offices where they were then detained, and in some cases, deported.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a legal brief this week as part of a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), accusing ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) of entrapping the spouses of American citizens who were seeking legal residency.

According to the Boston Globe, "E-mails and depositions of ICE agents obtained through the lawsuit show the federal agencies were working 'hand-in-hand' to bring people in for interviews so they could be arrested and deported."

"These were coordinated arrests. And the marriage interviews that our clients had to go through were in fact set-ups." —Matthew Segal, ACLU

The five plaintiffs in the ACLU's case include Lilian Calderon, a Guatemalan woman living in Rhode Island, who arrived at an immigration office for an appointment with CIS in January. Just after Calderon was interviewed about her marital status, ICE agents arrived to arrest her.

Calderon, like at least 16 other people in New England who have been detained in the same way, had filed an I-130 petition, offered to undocumented immigrants who want legal status in the U.S. through their spouses.

A judge stayed Calderon's deportation and she was released from jail after a month, but several people have been deported under the same circumstances.

"These were coordinated arrests," Matthew Segal, a lawyer with the ACLU, told the Boston Globe. "And the marriage interviews that our clients had to go through were in fact set-ups."

In the documents, ICE official Andrew Graham is shown writing to CIS employees telling them to hold meetings at specific times, warning that multiple arrests at once carry the "potential to be a trigger for negative media interests, as we have seen in the past."

The ACLU is asking a U.S. District Court judge to order DHS to immediately end arrests of immigrants at government offices, arguing that the agency has in the past offered waivers for people who are seeking residency through their family relationships even if they have deportation orders.

"Every one of these instances is about a family that has a citizen and a noncitizen, and probably children," Segal told the Globe. "That's who the government was trying to keep together...Here we have a trap laid out to separate them."

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