It was no coincidence when undocumented immigrants like Rhode Island resident Lilian Calderon were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials immediately after showing up for interviews at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices (CIS) to legalize their status. Instead, documents released yesterday reveal that CIS officials informed Boston ICE agents of the interviews, scheduled them at a convenient time for ICE, and sometimes even notified ICE when an individual arrived for his or her interview and how the interview was progressing. The disclosures came in a request for a preliminary injunction against the practice made by ACLU of Massachusetts attorneys in a class-action lawsuit filed in April on behalf of Ms. Calderon.
Ms. Calderon, who has lived in the country since she was three years old and has two young children, appeared at the local CIS office with her citizen husband for an interview designed to confirm their marriage, the first step in a sanctioned “provisional waiver” process designed to minimize family separation and encourage noncitizens with final orders of removal to seek to obtain legal status. The ACLU has now learned that ICE agents in collaboration with CIS, used the waiver process as a trap to bring individuals in for interviews for precisely the opposite reason – so that ICE could detain them, separate them from their families, and seek to deport them. That is what happened with Ms. Calderon, who was immediately arrested by ICE agents after the interview and then held in jail for a month until an ACLU habeas corpus petition obtained her release.
The legal memorandum filed by the ACLU yesterday included deposition excerpts of top immigration officials for the New England region, in which they acknowledged they made no effort to determine whether a person they planned to arrest was pursuing this lawful waiver process. The two agencies worked so hand-in-hand that in some instances, ICE officers asked CIS to spread out the interviews on different days so that ICE could employ its limited resources to arrest all the people appearing for interviews. CIS complied, and ICE officers would arrive to arrest the interviewee immediately following an interview, as happened in Ms. Calderon’s case.
In one documented instance, the legal memo reports, ICE officers “asked CIS to delay the applicant’s interview by fifteen minutes to accommodate the officers’ tardiness.” Contrary to CIS’s own written guidelines, they then arrested the individual notwithstanding CIS’s determination that the person would likely be approved for a waiver. Although the Boston office halted this practice after the ACLU filed a petition on Ms. Calderon’s behalf, a new field director has renounced that policy.
A multi-day hearing on the case is expected to begin in federal court in Boston starting Monday, August 20, 2018.
ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said today:
“The government’s actions in this case are truly despicable. Essentially, they waved the carrot of permanent legal status before unsuspecting immigrants with the intent of arresting, detaining and deporting them. The devastating effect of these machinations was to unnecessarily and cruelly tear families apart.”
A copy of a few key documents released yesterday can be found here: