A federal judge accused the Department of Homeland Security of ignoring due process and targeting and detaining immigrants who are married or engaged to U.S. citizens without so much as telling them about their right to a hearing or notifying their attorneys.
According to U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf, who berated Justice Department attorney Mary Larakers in court, the DHS violated the law by blatantly ignoring their own rules.
Four immigrant couples brought a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government to federal court, insisting that they have been unjustly targeted by law enforcement. Police apprehended Lucimar de Souza, who would become a plaintiff in the class action suit, in January this year immediately after being interviewed for their I-130 petition (petitioning for alien relatives).
While de Souza remains in police custody, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) managed to have Lilian Calderon, another plaintiff, released after she had been arrested under similar circumstances.
According to a statement by ACLU attorney Adriana Lafaille, “Lucimar’s detention was both inhumane and unlawful. We are so pleased that she is able to rejoin her husband and young son – just in time for Mother’s Day – while we continue to work to protect Lucimar’s rights and fight against other detentions like this one.”
The law states that immigration authorities have 60 days to notify a defendant and his or her attorney of an imminent removal hearing, notice of which must be sent within 90 days of an arrest. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), however, did not send de Souza a notice until April 23. To add insult to injury, the notice was delivered to the Suffolk House of Corrections where the immigrant is held in custody.
Larakers conceded that the government should have issued timely notices, but claimed that the late notices rectify that mistake.
“When it became aware what ICE had done, we attempted to remedy it. The due process recognized is to protect against prolonged detentions,” she reasoned.
Wolf, however, argued that the late notices do not remedy the injustice, adding that if neither of them received due process, and if Department of Homeland Security agrees it is obligated to follow its own regulations, then justice was wronged.
Wolf also pointed out that the DHS seems to have made a habit of ignoring its own regulations, especially those that pertain to proper notification of immigrant detainees and time limits for detention. The judge went to great lengths to explain the irreparable trauma of holding detainees beyond regulatory limits, pointedly asking Larakers if she knew what it was like to spent a day in jail.
If you, or a loved one, are facing a similar case and want to learn about your rights, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.