(ESPAÑOL) Federal immigration agencies have launched a coordinated campaign to arrest and deport immigrants seeking to become legal U.S. residents through marriage, according to documents released this week in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The documents, which include depositions and correspondence from federal officials, show the extent to which officials for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have been coordinating with their counterparts at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to facilitate arrests at citizenship offices in New England.
The ACLU, in its arguments, criticizes the efforts as a deportation “trap” that violates the constitutional rights of immigrants otherwise following the rules to become legal residents.
ICE spokesman John Mohan responded that allegations of “inappropriate coordination” between the two agencies are “unfounded” and that coordination between the two Department of Homeland Security agencies is “lawful and legitimate.” He declined to elaborate, citing the pending litigation.
USCIS spokesman Michael Bars declined to comment on the legal filing, but said his agency, in general, notifies law enforcement of individuals with an outstanding warrant or removal order and leaves it to them to decide if an arrest is necessary.
The ACLU lawsuit argues that Homeland Security regulations created under former President Barack Obama allow immigrants with U.S.-citizen spouses to stay in the country while they seek a green card — even if they’re already subject to deportation.
The federal government, in seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, argues in part that federal District Court has no jurisdiction in the matter.
The ACLU’s more than 250-page legal brief includes emails between ICE officials outlining how it coordinates arrests with USCIS in New England.
Andrew Graham, a Boston-based ICE officer, said the agency generally receives from USCIS lists of immigrants seeking legal residency who have already been ordered for deportation, had re-entered the country illegally or were considered “an egregious criminal alien.”
The ACLU’s legal brief is the latest in the class-action suit filed earlier this year on behalf of immigrants who have been or fear being separated from their U.S.-citizen spouses.
The case will be argued Aug. 20 in Boston federal court and names five couples, including lead plaintiffs Lilian Calderon and Luis Gordillo, of Rhode Island.