Reverting to a practice it had forsworn after the ACLU sued on behalf of Rhode Island resident Lilian Calderon, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have said they may once again snatch and detain undocumented immigrants who show up for interviews with federal immigration officials to legalize their status. The revelation was made last week in a filing in Ms. Calderon’s lawsuit by a new ICE Interim Field Office Director in Boston, Rebecca Adducci.
In January, Ms. Calderon, who has lived in the country since she was three years old, appeared at the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Johnston with her citizen husband for an interview designed to confirm their marriage, the first step in the process of seeking to become a lawful permanent resident. Immediately after the interview, she was abruptly detained by ICE and taken to a detention facility in Boston where she was held for nearly a month, separated from her husband and two young children. A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, in conjunction with the ACLU of Rhode Island, led to her release in February.
In April, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit, with Ms. Calderon as the lead plaintiff, challenging the ICE practice that resulted in Ms. Calderon’s detention. The lawsuit claims that it conflicts with USCIS regulations that allow certain noncitizen 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, according to the lawsuit, is to protect U.S. citizens and their spouses from extended family separation. Following Ms. Calderon’s release from detention, a former ICE official in Boston advised the court that they would no longer seek to arrest people like Ms. Calderon attending interviews to change their immigration status unless they presented a serious threat to public safety.
However, in an affidavit filed with the court this past week, regional ICE Director Adducci said that although “statements may have been made by prior local [ICE] leadership, which may have been interpreted as a commitment with regard to the prioritization of enforcement resources … no classes or categories of removable aliens are exempt from enforcement, including detention.”
“Essentially, ICE is saying that what they did to Lilian Calderon – tear her away from her children and family even though she was following the law and poses absolutely no threat – they may once again start doing to others,” said Steven Brown, ACLU of RI executive director. “Like the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border, policies like this are as cruel as they are discriminatory.”