Undocumented immigrants are finding themselves in a difficult situation as they attempt to become legal US residents. People have to decide whether becoming naturalized is worth running the risk of deportation.

On Wednesday, March 29, five people were arrested in Lawrence, Massachusetts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to WBUR, a Boston-based NPR station. Three of the arrested were in the process of applying for green cards.

This is alarming for undocumented immigrants who want to come out of the shadows but now have to acknowledge the possibility that when they go to interviews for their green card applications, they might be deported instead. This was the case for a Brazilian woman represented by attorney Brian Doyle.

His client understood the risk she was taking when she went to her marriage petition interview, a part of her green card process she was eligible for because she married a US citizen.

But it turned out she had actually been ordered for deportation before her marriage.

After a 40-minute interview at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, an ICE official entered and told her she was ordered for deportation. Doyle says ICE had every right to do this, but it’s still unusual. 

He told WBUR:

“Yes, they have the authority to, but you’re typically not going to see that person detained in that environment, because they are taking that first step in obtaining status through whatever avenue that they have.”

She could be detained for weeks as she waits to see if she’ll be deported to Brazil, a place she hasn’t been to in at least 15 years.

If she is deported, she will leave behind her three children, her husband, and her small business. The unidentified woman is detained by ICE at the Suffolk County House of Corrections. 

Doyle calls his client’s situation a “catch-22,” saying:

“Now, they’re in a sort of catch-22 where, ‘All right, I’m being called in for this interview. I want to have this first step approved.’ If they don’t show up, it’s what’s called abandoned … USCIS just sort of assumes that they don’t want to go forward with it. But now, if they do show up, trying to take that first step and they’re detained, it can lead to them being removed.”

Although the Brazilian woman has no criminal record, under the Trump administration she is still considered a priority for deportation thanks to the executive order which allows ICE to deport any undocumented immigrant they encounter – with or without a criminal record.

When speaking of the five people arrested, three had “multiple traffic violations” while the other two had no record, ICE told WBUR. Officials were “responding to an investigative tip” when they arrested them.