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A newly aggressive approach to immigration enforcement

In what the Boston Globe calls "a newly aggressive approach" to immigration enforcement, federal officers have begun to arrest individuals when they show up for scheduled appointments at the offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Five individuals were detained last week at USCIS's outpost in Lawrence, Massachusetts; now, immigrants across the country fear they will face similar treatment when they are summoned to speak with officials.

The arrests are only the latest in a series of stings targeting the immigrant community. Indeed, Donald Trump has pledged to deport upwards of 2 million individuals during his tenure. Nevertheless, arresting individuals at government offices marks a shift from past practices and has immigration advocates deeply concerned.

"What this means," one lawyer said, "is that people who are...following the law, who are following the rules...are going to be too terrified to show up and follow through with the process."

What can be done?

The trend underscores the newfound importance of obtaining qualified legal advice prior to any immigration appointment. Whenever possible, it is advisable for individuals to arrive at USCIS offices with a lawyer, who may be able to protect them against overzealous law enforcement agents.

Nevertheless, immigrants currently find themselves in what one immigration lawyer deems a Catch-22: If individuals fail to show up for a scheduled USCIS appointment, they may be entered into removal proceedings; but now they may be entered into removal proceedings if they do show up, too.

Going forward

Under President Obama, customs enforcement agents were ordered to refrain, by and large, from carrying out immigration raids on government property. Under the new administration, however, sting operations are increasing not only in USCIS offices but at courthouses as well -- to say nothing of individuals' work places and homes.

Moreover, the grounds for detaining people appear to be getting flimsier and flimsier. When asked if the people detained in Massachusetts posed any special threat to the country, a spokesperson for immigration enforcement replied that three of the arrested individuals had multiple traffic tickets, while the others had no criminal records whatsoever.

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