The Boston Globe has reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Massachusetts will no longer arrest removable aliens "during scheduled visits to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] offices." As the paper reported:
As recently as March, ICE had publicly defended the practice as a strategy to keep officers safe while they conducted arrests of immigrants with longstanding deportation orders. In January alone, ICE arrested seven people at immigration offices in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, often immediately after they completed interviews as part of their bid to become legal residents.
The public-safety aspects of such arrests are apparent, but merit notice. Most federal government buildings are secure, and visitors have to pass through metal detectors to gain access. This means that if an alien is arrested at a government office, the arresting officers will know that the alien is in a controlled setting and does not possess any dangerous weapons.
Contrast this with an arrest in public. An alien in such a situation may attempt to use force to avoid apprehension, endangering the alien, the officer, and/or the public.
This is not merely conjecture, but a scenario that played out with tragic consequences in Baltimore County, Md., just days ago when, prosecutors charge, Baltimore County Police Officer First Class Amy Caprio was struck by a fleeing vehicle and killed, as WBAL has reported. The station described the alleged incident:
Caprio was responding around 2 p.m. to a call for a suspicious vehicle and a burglary in progress on Linwen Way in Perry Hall. Charging documents state that a 911 caller reported a suspicious vehicle in the area.
Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan said Caprio arrived and saw a black Jeep. She followed it into a court, where it stopped and turned around. Caprio got out of her car and ordered the driver of the Jeep to get out.
Charging documents said [suspect Dawnta Harris, 16] admitted that he "drove at the officer."
"He admitted that he partially opened the driver's door, but then shut it and drove at the officer," the charging documents state.
A source familiar with the case said the officer's body camera video gives a clear view of her standing in street as the vehicle comes at her. She fired one shot and got hit by the vehicle and was thrown.
Officer Caprio died that afternoon.
With respect to the reported change in ICE Massachusetts' policy, the Globe explains that it "follow[ed] sharp questioning by a federal judge in Boston over the practice" of arresting removable aliens at USCIS offices. The case in question involved at least four separate aliens, and was held before U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf.
Although that article is not entirely clear on the issue, it appears that some, if not all of those aliens were under final orders of removal. The website Mass Live described the case of at least one of those aliens, Lucimar de Souza. De Souza was ordered removed in 2000 according to the website, but is now "married to a United States citizen and has a 10-year-old son who was born in this country." Five ICE officers arrested her outside of a USCIS Office in January "where de Souza was completing a confirmation of marriage interview, among the last steps to secure her legal status."
This new policy (the geographic scope of which is not entirely clear, according to the Globe) will force ICE officers out of the relative safety of USCIS offices and into the streets (or worse, homes, as I explained in a May 2017 post) in order to apprehend removable aliens. Those officers deserve better.
Andrew R. Arthur writes for the Center for Immigration Studies.