Lilian Calderon, 30 years old, is a Guatemalan immigrant and mother of two was brought to the U.S. when she was three years old. In January 2018, Calderon and her husband visited U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) near their home in Rhode Island to take the first step towards becoming a lawful permanent resident. Immediately after her successful interview with USCIS officials, Calderon was suddenly arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent to a detention facility in Boston.
On February 5, 2018, the ACLU of Massachusetts with support from the ACLU of Rhode Island sought her immediate release and a court order blocking immigration officials from deporting her until she is given a hearing. The filing argued that Calderon's detention violated her constitutional rights.
The next day, Judge Mark Wolf barred ICE officials from deporting Calderon while her lawsuit is pending. On February 13, ICE released Calderon from detention, allowing her to reunite her with her husband and young children.
In April 2018, the ACLU of Massachusetts, together with law firm WilmerHale, filed a class action suit on behalf of Calderon and other immigrants and their U.S.-citizen spouses whose lives have been upended by the Trump administration’s deportation machine.
On May 8, we asked the Federal Court to release one of our clients in this case, Lucimar de Souza, who had been detained and separated from her husband and 10-year-old son for over three months. That evening, the government agreed to release Lucimar — right in time for Mother's Day.
Unsealed documents and depositions show the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees USCIS and ICE, has used its own regulations – which were designed to protect the families of noncitizens from unnecessary separation during the legalization process – to target individuals for detention and deportation. The documents show USCIS actively coordinated with ICE to schedule and facilitate arrests at USCIS offices.
On August 23, 2018, Judge Wolf denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case. In May 2019, Judge Wolf granted class certification, extending the impact of the lawsuit to hundreds or thousands of New England citizens and their noncitizen spouses.
UPDATE: Following ICE’s failure to review extensive evidence from the ACLU of Massachusetts in support of releasing seven detained class members, Judge Wolf ordered several ICE officials to testify on October 10 and October 11, 2019. Click here for more.
- Boston Globe: Federal judge gives green light to class-action immigration complaint against Trump policy
- MassLive: Federal judge allows ACLU’s class action suit on behalf of undocumented spouses to extend to all of New England
- WPRI: Federal judge certifies class-action lawsuit against immigration officials
- Providence Journal: My Turn: Lilian Calderon: A year of fear under immigration law
- CNN: Judge: ICE shouldn't 'remove' people applying for green cards just because they have deportation orders
- Boston Globe: Immigrants testify about ordeal of detention, separation from families
- Mother Jones: Internal ICE Emails Show How the Government Set a Trap for Undocumented Spouses of US Citizens
Photo: Lilian Calderon and her husband Luis Gordillo