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ACLU Sues ICE for Illegally Separating Immigrant Families

By Molly Zilli, Esq. | Last updated on

The Trump administration is facing another legal challenge regarding its immigration policies. We've heard about plans to deport only violent criminals, or those convicted of serious felonies. But this latest lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, alleges that through ICE, the administration is illegally separating immigrant families by targeting the immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens for deportation.

Targets U.S. Citizen Spouses

At the center of the controversy is a conflict between the policies of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says USCIS implemented a policy in 2016 for people who have U.S.-citizen spouses but who are subject to deportation orders because they are here illegally. The regulation allows them to stay in the country throughout most of the process of obtaining lawful immigration status. They say it was designed to keep families together and encourage people to improve their immigration status.

However, when people like Lilian Calderon went to her routine meeting with USCIS, she was instead separated from her family, detained, and held for a month by ICE. She was granted a stay of removal, but that expires in May. So, it's unclear whether she will be deported at that time to Guatemala, a country she left when she was three years old. She would leave behind her husband and two small children, all U.S. citizens.

ACLU Alleges Policy Fueled by "Racial Animus"

In response, the ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit. Steve Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, argues that "people should not have to fear they may end in prison merely for trying to play by the government's own policies to address their immigration status." They also contend that the Trump administration's policies are fueled by "racial animus" against people of color, citing President Trump's comments preferring immigrants from countries like Norway.

These are unpredictable times with regard to immigration. If you have concerns about your immigration status, or that of a family member, contact an experienced immigration attorney who can advise you on the latest changes to the law.

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