Lawsuit Challenges Trump Immigration Practices After Providence Mother’s Detention

BOSTON — A Providence mother detained by immigration officials in January is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday challenging the Trump administration’s pattern of separating married couples and families pursuing lawful immigration status.

Immigration officials detained Lilian Calderon, originally from Guatemala, in January after she appeared at the Johnston office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with her husband for an interview designed to confirm their marriage, the first step in the process of seeking to become a lawful permanent resident.

Amid an uproar over her detention, the American Civil Liberties Union went to court to oppose her detention, and immigration officials released Calderon after about a month.

The class action lawsuit is against President Donald Trump, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, on behalf of Calderon, her husband, and others, in an effort, the ACLU says, to protect immigrants from detention and deportation and to keep families together while non-citizen spouses pursue the government’s pathway for lawful immigration status.

The class action filing arises from what the ACLU contends is incompatible actions of two DHS agencies: USCIS and ICE.

In 2016, USCIS enacted regulations that allowed certain non-citizen spouses of U.S. citizens to pursue lawful immigration status while remaining in the United States with their families. The express purpose of the process, contends the lawsuit, is to protect U.S. citizens and their spouses from extended — and potentially indefinite — family separation.

Although the 2016 regulations remain in effect, ICE has recently adopted a policy and practice of detaining and seeking to remove individuals who are pursuing this process, the ACLU says.

In fact, ICE has admitted that seven individuals were arrested while seeking permanent residency at a Massachusetts or Rhode Island USCIS office in January 2018 alone.

Calderon, the mother of two young children, had never been in trouble with the law. “In fact, she was arrested by ICE while she was trying to obey the law. She was doing exactly what the government had asked in light of her immigration status before they snatched her away from her family,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island.

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