United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement faces a growing number of legal challenges to its practice of conducting sting operations at courthouses and at appointments immigrants have with U.S. immigration authorities. Civil rights advocates have long argued such enforcement dissuades immigrants from cooperation with authorities, and, as such, functionally limits their ability to access the full protection of the law.
A federal judge in Maryland decided last Thursday that ICE agents acted unlawfully when they detained Wanrong Lin. Lin, a Chinese national, was arrested while meeting with immigration authorities to apply for a deportation waiver that would allow him to remain with his family in the U.S. as he underwent applications for legal residency status. The judge ruled that, in this specific case, the application proceedings could not be used as a way to trap Lin.
The judge’s decision “is not a class action [and] is limited to the particular case,” explains Richard Boswell, a law professor at the University of California–Hastings specializing in immigration law. “However, some of the reasoning could be influential in other cases in other courts.”
While there has not yet been such a class-action challenge, Boswell says there’s a “strong argument” for a broader case that would restrict immigration enforcement at immigration appointments.
Then on Monday, in a separate pending case, Massachusetts district attorneys and public defenders filed suit against ICE to block agents from enforcing at state courthouses. Judges will now decide whether the Trump administration can functionally criminalize immigrants by provoking their noncompliance with the courts. The practice of arresting immigrants at courthouses can silence the victims of violent crimes in particular, experts have told Pacific Standard, penalizing them for abiding by the law.
By Massoud Hayoun for PACIFIC STANDARD
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