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Mass. ACLU sues U.S. ICE officials

Attorneys: Immigrant spouses targeted

Karen Morales
Mass. ACLU sues U.S. ICE officials
Lawsuit petitioners Lilian Calderon and Luis Gordillo speaking to press at the ACLU of Massachusetts office.

A class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts challenges U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and their recent tactics of targeting immigrant spouses who are pursuing citizenship by detaining them at marriage confirmation interviews.

In partnership with WilmerHale, a global legal agency, the ACLU filed on behalf of five U.S. citizens and their spouses against President Trump, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and ICE officials.

The five families affected also include their 9 U.S.-born children.

“Our clients are all U.S. citizens with spouses who are trying to follow a process that the government itself created, that allowed them to come forward and correct deficiencies in their immigration status in order to apply for lawful permanent residency,” said Adriana Lafaille, staff attorney for ACLU of Massachusetts, at a press conference last Wednesday at the ACLU Boston office.

“These actions are not only inhumane, they are unlawful,” she said.

According to Lafaille, two of the lawsuit petitioners were detained at the end of their marriage confirmation interviews at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices.

“Despite having kids waiting for them at home, Lilian and Lucimar were snapped up, they were abruptly placed in ICE detention and separated from their families,” she said.

Another two were asked to leave the country by ICE officials during their regular yearly check-in, despite having pending residency applications.

Clients Lilian Calderon and Luis Gordillo spoke at last week’s press conference, sharing their experience in trying to keep their family together.

Born in Guatemala but living in the U.S. since age 3, Calderon is raising two children with her husband Luis Gordillo in Providence, Rhode Island.

While applying for citizenship at a local customs office in January, she was detained for nearly a month at a Boston detention facility.

“I’m not the only one being detained, there are so many other people in the same situation who don’t have a chance to even say goodbye to their families,” said Calderon. “We’re told to go to interviews but we’re not told that we won’t get to go home afterwards.”

“There is no reason for what happened, we were never given a reason. We want to help our situation and other people. We hope others can speak out,” said Gordillo.

Jonathan Cox, senior associate at WilmerHale, said immigration officials are misusing the federal immigration process.

“The process is meant to keep families together but today the administration is using that same process to target families,” he said.

In February, the ACLU of Massachusetts, with support from the ACLU of Rhode Island, filed a petition in Boston federal court seeking Calderon’s immediate release and a court order blocking immigration officials from deporting her until she was given a hearing. She was released a few days later.

According to Cox, by expanding Calderon’s individual case into a class action suit, the attorneys were able to expand the scope of the issue to include other immigrant families in the state affected by unlawful orders of deportation.

Calderon told press that her family is trying to live life as normally as possible, despite not knowing what may happen next.

“We’re scared of the uncertainty,” she said. “I know nothing of Guatemala. Where would I go there?”

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