ACLU says feds seek to 'trap' migrants trying to become legal residents

ACLU says feds seek to 'trap' migrants trying to become legal residents
© Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that federal immigration agencies are entrapping immigrants seeking to become legal residents through marriage in a coordinated effort to find and deport them.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including documents they argue show officials have been working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to arrest immigrants at citizenship offices in New England.

ADVERTISEMENT

The documents, which include depositions and correspondence from federal officials, describe a deportation “trap” designed to ensnare immigrants who are following legal paths to citizenship, according to the ACLU.

“The government created this path for them to seek a green card,” Matthew Segal, the legal director for ACLU Massachusetts, said Tuesday. “The government can’t create that path and then arrest folks for following that path.”

Andrew Graham, a Boston-based ICE officer, says the immigration agency usually uses the USCIS lists that the ACLU criticizes to find immigrants who are already set to be deported, re-entered the country illegally, or were considered “an egregious criminal alien.”

Graham said arresting those on the list was part of the job, so “it makes sense for us to arrest aliens with final removal orders as they represent the end of the line in the removal process.”

The ACLU lawsuit contends that regulations established under President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security allow immigrants with spouses who are American citizens to stay in the country, even if they are already set to be deported.  

The case names five couples, but the lead plaintiffs are Lilian Calderon and Luis Gordillo of Rhode Island.

Gordillo is a legal U.S. resident, while Calderon, a mother of three who has been in the U.S. for 27 years, was ordered to leave in 2002 when her father was denied asylum. ICE detained her for a month after she and Gordillo visited an USCIS office for an interview.

The case will be argued on Monday in Boston federal court.