For many immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens, attending a visa interview at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can mark the beginning of their journey to obtaining a green card. Until recently, USCIS visa interviews were routine procedures that provided immigrants seeking citizenship the opportunity to present documentation and personal testimony to support their citizenship claim.
Immigrants now scheduled for USCIS visa interviews may face unexpected consequences as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has been arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants who appear for visa interviews. For unsuspecting immigrants, this “bait and switch” arrest operation can have devastating results as individuals picked up by ICE may face immediate separation from their families, detention, and deportation.
One of the most common USCIS interview situations involves foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens who are seeking their green cards. These individuals are trying to legally obtain permanent residency in the United States through these established paths to citizenship. Undocumented spouses must often meet with USCIS officials to prove the legitimacy of their marriages. In certain cases, ICE and USCIS are specifically targeting these undocumented immigrant spouses of U.S citizens. The spouses are not expecting ICE officials to be waiting for them with the purpose of arrest and detention when they appear for their visa interviews.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class-action lawsuit to end USCIS’s practice of alerting ICE when individuals eligible for deportation are scheduled to be at government offices for routine visa interviews. Citing violations of the Immigration Nationality Act and the due process rights of the detained immigrants, the ACLU lawsuit alleges that government agencies are engaged in entrapment activities in which they invite the undocumented immigrants to visa interviews for the sole purpose of arresting them.
Email correspondence between several Department of Homeland Security agencies, including USCIS and ICE, indicates government officials encouraged such coordination to obtain arrests while attempting to avoid media attention. The emails reveal ICE officials preferred USCIS interviews to be scheduled separately to avoid “the potential to be a trigger for negative media interests.”
ICE officials further requested USCIS reschedule visa interviews in cases where ICE officials were not immediately available to make arrests. The interagency emails indicated ICE chose to focus on immigrants who had final removal orders pending against them, which make these immigrant spouses easier to remove from the United States as they often have the shortest lengths of stay in the country.
Immigrants who are subject to removal typically must return to their home countries and stay there for a period of 10 years before returning to the United States. Recent changes in U.S. immigration law allows immigrants subject to removal orders to apply for a waiver that would allow them to stay in the country if they can show that returning to their home countries would result in an “extreme hardship” to an immigrant’s children or spouses who are U.S. citizens. The ACLU lawsuit states the ICE and USCIS entrapment would nullify this benefit.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Provide Clients with Knowledgeable and Compassionate Immigration Assistance
If you or a loved one is seeking immigration help, the experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are here to help. To further discuss your immigration issues, including deportations, Board of Immigration appeals, visa applications, abuse petitions, and asylum issues, call us at 215-925-4435 to arrange a consultation or contact us online. With offices in Philadelphia, we assist clients from the surrounding areas of Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County.