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Judge says ICE agents can't make arrests in immigration interview

Immigrants across Louisiana may feel worried about appearing for hearings or speaking with certain officials out of fear that they might be arrested. These fears are understandable, particularly as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been making more arrests outside of courthouses. However, a federal judge recently ruled that ICE agents were wrong when they arrested a man during an immigration interview.

The 38-year-old man traveled alone to the United States from China back in 1994 when he was only 14 years old. Although he is undocumented, his wife became a naturalized citizen in the year that they married -- 2004. The couple's children are also citizens. In 2008 he applied for asylum but was denied. He was ordered to be deported but remained in the country.

In 2016, he and his wife applied for a stateside waiver. This gives noncitizens who are supposed to be deported the ability to stay in the country while they try for legal status. The couple was required to participate in an interview to confirm their marriage was legitimate. Instead, he was taken to a separate room, arrested and then placed on a plane and deported in Nov. 2018. A judge ordered that he be returned to the United States before the plane had even landed.

By arresting the man during his interview, ICE agents effectively prevented the man from moving forward with the second step of applying for the waiver. The judge ruled that removing an immigrant under such circumstances was not right. As she put it, it not only prevents eligible applicants from completing the process, but it also lays a trap for individuals who are trying to comply with the law.

Most immigrants in Louisiana want to comply with U.S. immigration law, but doing so can be difficult. Deadlines can be confusing and harshly enforced, and ICE agents do not always act in a way that is fitting with the law. A lawyer who is familiar with immigration law may be able to provide clearer information to those who are confused by the process and their options.

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