Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are reportedly using a new intimidation tactic to coerce undocumented immigrants into turning themselves in for deportation proceedings: text messages.
On Thursday, Newsweek reported that ICE agents started employing a scam-like strategy of sending text messages to undocumented immigrants as early as September. Citing attorneys and immigration experts, the report detailed more than one instance in which ICE officers had texted an undocumented immigrant to trick them into deportation meetings.
John Schlosser, an attorney in Portland, OR, told Newsweek that his panicked client—who was convicted of a misdemeanor—called him after receiving a message from an ICE agent that he had never met in person. “Please feel free to call me with any questions that you have,” the text read. “I will need to hear from you soon.” Texting an undocumented immigrant, Schlosser said, was a scare tactic, and one that was clearly thought out:
The ICE agent allegedly tried to scare the undocumented immigrant, who had recently been convicted of a misdemeanor, telling him that President Donald Trump was considering changing immigration procedures and urged him to turn himself in early.
Another immigration lawyer in New Jersey, Stephanie Isern, said ICE had used a similar strategy with her client. Isern, seemingly unaware that this was becoming a widely used tactic, said she thought her client might have been an anomaly:
“I thought she was one in a million because I’d never heard of such a thing,” Isern said. “I have many concerns about it, but it might just be something new they’re doing. They can get a very vulnerable population to make admissions and turn themselves in without legal advice.”
Given how frequently scammers use phishing text messages to entrap unsuspecting victims, a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union, Cody Wofsy, encouraged people who receive texts from alleged ICE agents to immediately contact their attorneys.
“It intersects with existing problems with fraud, which is troubling, particularly if they’re misleading people,” said Wofsy.
In recent weeks, ICE agents have also invaded a man’s home without a warrant and detained him; arrested a father of four when he showed up to an office to get his green card; tried to link the California wildfires to undocumented immigrants; and engaged in severe alleged racial profiling, among other things. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that the agency has found a new way to terrorize people.