Two federal departments are accused of setting a "trap" to detain and deport undocumented immigrants who sought a path to citizenship via their spouses immediately after they concluded marriage interviews at government offices.
Emails between ICE agents and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees plotting the arrests were included in court records released Monday.
The exchanges showed that the interviews were allegedly scheduled at the convenience of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to make arrests immediately after the couples finished interviews to deem their marriages legitimate.
One email references an ICE agent’s desire to space out the arrests as opposed to making them all at once in an effort to refrain from triggering "negative media interests."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of the separated couples. The complaint was filed in April on behalf of five immigrants and their citizen spouses.
Government officials filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit as well as temporary relief for the immigrants involved in the case.
In January, Lilian Calderon was arrested outside of a Rhode Island USCIS office after she concluded an interview to confirm her marriage to her U.S. citizen husband.
The lawsuit states Calderon was taken to a detention center in Boston, where she was separated from her husband and two children for almost a month.
Also in January, Lucimar de Souza and her husband attended a marriage interview to seek legal status for de Souza. Although officials deemed their marriage legitimate, she was detained after the interview for three months, according to the ACLU.
Both women were released from the detention center following legal action by the ACLU of Massachusetts. The immigrants involved in the lawsuit have been given final orders of removal from the country, despite their marriage to U.S. citizens.
ICE has acknowledged that they detained a total of 17 people in New England at government offices, and ACLU lawyers say some immigrants have already been deported.
A hearing is scheduled to be held Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in Boston on the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.