ICE, US Atty Stand By Rare Immigration Arrest At Courthouse

Federal immigration officials and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts this week stood by the attendance of two agents at an asylum-seeking international student’s sentencing so they could arrest her immediately after she left, a move that enraged the presiding judge.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, nominated last year by President Donald Trump to lead federal prosecutors in Boston, said Xinyan Wang squandered her “invitation” to attend American universities by committing visa fraud to take a college entrance exam for another Chinese national. He defended the agents who, without a detainer, put her in a government SUV Wednesday afternoon after she was sentenced to one year of probation.

“The Homeland Security agents who escorted Wang out of the courtroom were doing their jobs: enforcing federal law,” Lelling said Thursday in an emailed statement. “Their efforts to protect the public should be applauded, not criticized.”

The federal judge, upset by ICE’s unannounced appearance in her courtroom, and a prosecutor assigned to Wang’s case said in court on Wednesday that they had never before seen U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement take action at a courthouse without filing standard paperwork. ICE typically detains people using an official order of removal or a special form used to show probable cause to deport, called an immigration detainer or hold.

Michael Shea, head of ICE’s homeland security investigations in Boston, said that the agency was grateful Lelling had its back.

“We appreciate the support of the United States Attorney and his recognition that the legitimate mission of ICE [Homeland Security Investigations] may under certain circumstances require enforcement actions to be carried out in courthouse surroundings,” he said in an emailed statement.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said in court that having immigration agents waiting around her courtroom to arrest a defendant was concerning, upsetting, unprecedented and could scare off immigrant witnesses and victims from courthouses.