Responding, in an ACLU lawsuit, to a federal judge’s order demanding answers as to why Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained Lilian Calderon, a 30-year-old Rhode Island mother of two young children, for almost a month, an ICE official has cited three reasons: (1) it believed her 2002 order of removal—which she had been taking steps to address since 2016 under available regulations—rendered her a flight risk, (2) the “availability of bed space”; and (3) “lack of child care issues.” The official also acknowledged that Calderon could be subject to detention again after a three-month stay that ICE issued expires.
Ms. Calderon was detained by ICE last month when she went with her husband, a U.S. citizen, to the Providence field office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Johnston as part of the process of applying for lawful permanent resident status. After releasing Calderon from detention a week after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on her behalf, Department of Homeland Security officials indicated that they would seek to dismiss the ACLU’s petition as moot. Pointing to a pattern by ICE of detaining and then releasing individuals like Calderon once court involvement ensued, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordered ICE to provide further information about Calderon’s detention and release. Today, the agency responded to that order by filing an affidavit from ICE Deputy Field Office Director Todd Lyons.
Despite allegedly considering Calderon a flight risk as a reason for her detention, Lyons went on to cite her “ties to the community” as one of the reasons for releasing her. The Lyons affidavit also indicates that six other people taking steps to seek permanent residency last month in Rhode Island or Massachusetts ICE officials were similarly detained. The affidavit provided no other details in citing “availability of bed space” and “lack of child care issues” as reasons for detaining Calderon in the first place.
ACLU of Massachusetts attorney Adriana Lafaille said today: “ICE has confirmed that Lilian and her family continue to be at risk of being separated despite the fact that she is taking steps to seek permanent residency under available regulations. The agency's callous statement that abruptly tearing a mother from two young children presented a ‘lack of child-care issues’ underscores its basic disregard for the well-being of children, and for the family unification that the regulations are designed to promote. ICE has also confirmed today that it has inflicted this same harm upon six other New England families in January 2018 alone. That is unacceptable – and the ACLU will continue to fight for Lilian and against arbitrary and unlawful detention practices.”
ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown added: “ICE’s response demonstrates beyond any doubt the complete arbitrariness of the agency’s process for detaining people in Ms. Calderon’s position. That they chose to detain her because there was room at the inn is appalling, especially since their claim that she was a flight risk is belied by the reasons they gave for releasing her. We are hopeful this case will help lead to an end to these cruel and unnecessary detentions.”
The federal lawsuit is being handled by the ACLU, while private attorney Martin Harris is pursuing other administrative remedies on Ms. Calderon’s behalf.