Matt Segal, legal director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response to a federal judge’s decision to deny the government’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s pattern of separating married couples pursuing lawful immigration status:
“We are pleased that the Court rejected the government’s challenge to our clients’ lawsuit. The decision means that this case will move forward, bringing hope to families that the Trump administration is trying to tear apart. The government created a path to lawful immigration status for our clients, and now it is trying to arrest them for following that path. And we know why: the Trump administration is relentlessly trying to detain and deport many immigrants as possible, no matter the costs to family unity and civil rights. Today, we tell the Trump administration, again: we’ll see you in court.”
The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with law firm WilmerHale, filed the class action lawsuit in April on behalf of five immigrants and their U.S. citizen spouses. The couples are trying to avail themselves of 2016 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations that allowed certain noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens to pursue lawful immigration status while remaining in the United States with their families. The lawsuit alleges that the government has unlawfully arrested, detained, and deported people pursuing the process set out in these regulations.
Last week, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed previously sealed court filings that reveal the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses 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. Information uncovered by documents and depositions shows USCIS actively coordinated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to schedule and facilitate arrests at USCIS offices. According to the filing, documents obtained in discovery reveal the “stunning extent” to which DHS in New England transformed the 2016 regulations into a trap calculated to cause unnecessary separation of married couples and families.
Two of the petitioners in the case, Lilian Calderon and Lucimar de Souza, were among the 17 individuals detained at USCIS after appearing for marriage interviews in 2018.
In January, Lilian Calderon appeared at a Rhode Island USCIS office with her U.S. citizen husband for an interview designed to confirm their marriage, the first step in the process of seeking to become a lawful permanent resident. Immediately after the interview, she was abruptly detained by ICE and taken to a detention facility in Boston where she was held – separated from her husband and two young children – for nearly a month.
That same month, Lucimar de Souza and her husband together attended an interview to confirm their marriage for her lawful immigration status. Immediately after the interview, and despite the approval of the marriage petition, she was detained and remained separated from her husband and 10-year-old son for three months.
Calderon and de Souza were both released from detention following ACLU of Massachusetts legal action. In May, ICE officials testified in hearings held by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf designed to determine what happened to Calderon, de Souza, and other similarly situated immigrants in New England. In July, top ICE officials in Boston were deposed as part of the lawsuit.
Watch on YouTube: Lucimar de Souza reunites with her son after three month separation