Published on: Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney appeared elated when a sitting Massachusetts judge was indicted in 2018 for helping an immigrant in the country illegally evade custody, asking in an email if it would be "the first of many" such arrests, according to records made public in court Tuesday (article available here).

The email by then-ICE Principal Legal Adviser Tracy Short was part of a series of documents filed by a civil liberties group and government watchdog suing the agency to obtain even more records relating to the obstruction of justice charges against Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph.

Short posed the rhetorical question as a Fox News article circulated in emails among agency staff on the day Judge Joseph was indicted. In a later email to agency executives, Short said, "This is a great day."

"Indeed," responded Matthew Albence, ICE director of enforcement removal operations, according to the court filings. ICE chief of staff Thomas Blank allegedly chimed in, "Blessed."

Short is now chief immigration judge for the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review, while Albence and Blank have since moved into the private sector.

Judge Joseph is accused of helping the immigrant evade federal custody by allowing him to leave out the back door of her courtroom while agents from ICE were waiting out front to arrest him. The case has been criticized by retired judges, academics and Massachusetts defense lawyers as an overreach by the federal government. Judge Joseph has argued that she acted within the scope of her judicial authority and therefore cannot be criminally charged. The issue is on appeal at the First Circuit.