Agents in Massachusetts were ordered to stop arresting undocumented immigrants visiting federal offices hoping to secure their legal status in February, an immigration official said in federal court Tuesday.
Thomas Brophy, the acting director of Boston’s US Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office, told a federal judge he stopped the practice shortly after taking his role in February.
In January, at least seven people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island were arrested during or following their appointments with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Lucimar de Souza, Lilian Calderon, and others were arrested outside CIS offices where they were securing their legal status after marrying US citizens.
The practice drew criticism nationally and was seen as a signal of a new attitude toward undocumented immigrants in the Trump era. It has also drawn a legal challenge by the Massachusetts ACLU.
In answering a series of questions from US District Court Judge Mark Wolf Brophy said he stopped the arrests on Feb. 16. Brophy and five other immigration officials are in federal court this week to answer questions about errors made during the detention of several people.
James Rutherford, a deputy field office director for ICE, said Brophy’s predecessor established this practice during his testimony.
“Anyone subject to enforcement could be arrested,” Rutherford said. Brophy reversed this directive and told his officers to only focus on people who are a threat to national security or public safety.
Rutherford told Wolf that CIS employees “worked with ICE to provide information about people coming in for an interview.”
He said CIS officers told ICE when anyone with a removal order was coming in. Wolf noted this is a violation of the CIS rules, but Rutherford said he was unaware of that.
The hearing continues Wednesday at 10 a.m.