Suit says feds us­ing im­mi­gra­tion mar­riage in­ter­views as trap

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By REGINA GAR­CIA CANO

BAL­TI­MORE — Al­yse and Elmer Sanchez were thrilled when they sur­vived their “green card” in­ter­view, a cru­cial step in ob­tain­ing law­ful sta­tus in the United States. She texted her fam­ily from the im­mi­gra­tion of­fice as re­lief washed over her: The of­fi­cer had agreed that their mar­riage is le­git­i­mate.

Mo­ments later, Elmer was in shack­les, de­tained pend­ing de­por­ta­tion to his na­tive Hon­duras, leav­ing her alone with their two lit­tle boys.

“We feel it was a trap, a trick, to get us there,” Al­yse said.

The Sanchezes have joined five other cou­ples in a class ac­tion ac­cus­ing fed­eral agents of luring fam­i­lies to mar­riage in­ter­views in Bal­ti­more, only to de­tain the im­mi­grant spouse for de­por­ta­tion.

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions al­low U.S. cit­i­zens like Al­yse to try to le­gal­ize the sta­tus of spouses like Elmer, who has been liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally. Thou­sands of fam­i­lies are do­ing it: Records show the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices ap­proved 23,253 pro­vi­sional un­law­ful pres­ence waivers, the fi­nal doc­u­ments spouses, chil­dren or par­ents of cit­i­zens need be­fore leav­ing the coun­try and ap­ply­ing to re­join their fam­i­lies legally.

But the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union says a grow­ing num­ber of of­fi­cers have “cru­elly twisted” the rules by de­tain­ing im­mi­grant spouses fol­low­ing mar­riage in­ter­views. The ACLU is pur­su­ing a sim­i­lar com­plaint in Mas­sachusetts and says dozens of de­ten­tions also have hap­pened at field of­fices in New York, Vir­ginia, Florida, Illi­nois and Cal­i­for­nia.

The Mary­land case is as­signed to U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ge­orge J. Hazel, who al­ready re­versed the de­por­ta­tion of a Chi­nese man de­tained after a suc­cess­ful mar­riage in­ter­view in Bal­ti­more. Rul­ing just be­fore Wan­rong Lin landed in Shang­hai last Novem­ber, Hazel said the gov­ern­ment can’t use the process “as a hon­ey­pot to trap un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who seek to take ad­van­tage of its pro­tec­tions.”

Al­yse told The As­so­ci­ated Press her fam­ily’s life “just seemed so per­fect.”

She and Elmer, now 31 and 41, be­gan dat­ing in 2013, after he learned she was sell­ing her car and showed up at her door. He bought it, and they mar­ried that year. They have two sons, four and two, and live in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urb of Kens­ing­ton, Mary­land.

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