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Boston ICE Office Chief Tells Judge He's Ordered A Stop To Arrests At Interviews

The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Department of Homeland Security officials are due back in Boston federal court Wednesday to explain why the immigrant spouses of American citizens were detained at interviews to prove the legitimacy of their marriages.

Judge Mark Wolf is holding the hearings to find out how immigration officials, in his words, "broke the law."

One immigration authority told the judge Tuesday that he has already changed the practices.

Thomas Brophy, acting director of the Boston field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said that when he took over in February of this year, he ordered an end to detentions of immigrants except when they pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Brophy said the detentions were ordered by his predecessor. The orders in Boston — and therefore in all of New England -- Brophy said, were that any immigrants here illegally could be detained. He said before President Trump issued an executive order shortly after his inauguration last year, immigrants who did not pose a risk to national security or public safety would "likely" not have been targeted.

Brophy's deputy, James Rutherford, later testified that agents at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, would alert ICE when immigrants were showing up for their interviews.

Brophy said he has told USCIS agents to stop doing that.

Among those in court Tuesday was Lucimar de Souza, of Everett. She was detained earlier this year when she appeared at her interview to prove that her marriage to an American citizen was not a sham. She was released on May 8, after Wolf found that ICE had broken the law by denying de Souza and others due process.

On Tuesday, Wolf ordered a video to be shown of the reunion of de Souza with her 10-year-old son after her months in detention.

"How many children do you have?" Wolf asked Brophy.

"Three," replied the ICE official.

"Did you think what it would be like to face the threat of deportation and stay separated from your children for five or six weeks while you await a hearing?" Wolf asked.

Wolf ordered Brophy to provide the names and situations of all the immigrants in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who are in detention and have been denied due process by Thursday.

De Souza seemed encouraged by the hearing.

"She takes away the hope of being able to stay in a good situation in the country," said Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union attorney Adriana Lafaille.

"We agree with the judge that ICE has violated the law with regards to their detention, and we hope to keep learning more about these practices," said Lafaille.

Brophy acknowledged that Wolf has found ICE has broken the law, and promised to investigate who violated the law by denying immigrants due process.

This segment aired on May 23, 2018.


Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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