The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday, claiming a trend of detaining immigrants seeking legal immigration through marriage to U.S. citizens.
The lawsuit comes amid increased calls by President Trump to crack down on illegal and legal immigration, particularly chain migration, or the practice of seeking legal immigration status by sponsoring extended family members seeking legal entry into the United States. These new immigrants, upon legalization, carry on the practice, resulting in a familial “chain” of immigrants entering the country.
The proposed class action, filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, alleges that immigration officials have been deliberately detaining noncitizen spouses of U.S. residents seeking lawful immigration status, forcibly breaking families apart.
“These actions are not only inhumane but they are unlawful,” said ACLU Massachusetts lawyer Adriana Lafaille at a press conference.
The ACLU claims that the Trump administration’s immigration policies are a reflection of a consistent desire to drive out immigrants of color and place obstacles hindering non-white individuals from becoming American citizens. The lawsuit claims immigration authorities have unlawfully and unconstitutionally upended the lives of five married couples of color. The lawsuit targets US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policies encouraging immigrants staying in the country illegally to seek lawful status enacted during the Obama administration.
USCIS regulations enacted in 2016 allow undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens to undergo a process of acquiring the necessary forms and waivers to stay in the country legally, as opposed to leaving the country while they pursue legal permanent residency.
The lawsuit, however, claims that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made a habit of detaining undocumented spouses going through the lawful processes of obtaining legal status. In January alone, according to the complaint, seven immigrants were arrested at Massachusetts and Rhode Island USCIS offices.
The ACLU goes on to speculate that the administration’s actions are motivated by a racial animus based on national origin, pointing out that the president openly labeled immigrants as criminals and rapists throughout his campaign.
The lawsuit also contends that the bait and switch tactic practiced by immigration officials violates both the Immigration and Nationality Act and the U.S. Constitution, seeking to stop the agency from making similar detentions in the future.
ICE spokesman John Mohan has so far refused to comment on the complaint.
The complaint adds to an earlier case by Lilian Calderon, a Guatemalan immigrant arrested at a government office in Rhode Island after being interviewed for her application for legal status. She was detained for a month and was finally released after the lawsuit was filed.
If you, or a loved one, need assistance on your immigration application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.