Immigration officials in Massachusetts may once again arrest undocumented immigrants who show up for appointments at government offices, marking the reversal of a February directive that had halted the practice, according to a filing Friday in US District Court in Boston.
The policy change was revealed in an affidavit filed by Rebecca Adducci, who took over June 7 as interim director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Boston field office.
Adducci said that while the Boston office will “continue to prioritize enforcement efforts toward the apprehension and removal of criminal aliens and those who pose a danger to the community or to the national security of the United States, no classes or categories of removable aliens are exempt from enforcement, including detention.”
Her affidavit was part of a filing in a civil case brought by five couples suing the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security over the arrests of immigrants who showed up for hearings at government offices.
The couples are represented by the ACLU and the Boston law firm WilmerHale, which filed the suit earlier this year.
Adriana Lafaille, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said that in light of Adducci’s policy change, immigrant families might be afraid to show up to appointments or interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“This goes to the heart of what we’re fighting for,” Lafaille said. “These are American families trying to seek stability, trying to come out of the shadows, and bring themselves under the law through a process that the government has itself set out. We will be continuing to fight for that process to be protected and for it to be available to those families.”
The case brought by the five couples is rooted in a process created by the government in 2016 for non-citizens living in the US to seek lawful status through spouses who are US citizens, Lafaille said.
She said that since last year, “the administration is no longer respecting those regulations and has basically been pulling a bait and switch on the families that are trying to avail themselves of this process.”
One woman in the suit, Lilian Calderon, was arrested in January at a government office in Rhode Island after officials told her she could begin the application process for legal status as they believed her marriage was legitimate, the Globe previously reported. She remained in jail for almost a month.
ICE officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
In May, the former acting director of the ICE Boston field office, Thomas Brophy, told Judge Mark Wolf, who is presiding over the case, that he ended the practice of in-office arrests in February.
“We were going to focus on public safety,” Brophy said in court. “We were not going to conduct those arrests [at government offices] unless there was a threat to national security or public safety.”
But last Friday, Adducci, who is also the field office director in Detroit and is currently serving remotely as interim director for the Boston office, said she will not follow the exemption that Brophy implemented. She is expected to begin working locally on Monday.
Adducci said in the affidavit that she‘s aware that former leadership made comments “which may have been interpreted as a commitment with regard to the prioritization of enforcement resources.”
Adducci said her decision is in alignment with President Trump’s January executive order regarding immigration and sanctuary cities.
The order included a section stating: “We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
But Lafaille said the policy reversal “reaffirms the need for the relief that we have been seeking since we brought this case.”
She said the decision to arrest immigrants who show up for government appointments, coming shortly after the much-criticized separation of families at the US border, “does show a willingness to pull families apart, even when they are availing themselves of the law.”