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Immigrants Arrested at Marriage Interview 'Traps'

Imagine going to an official government interview with your spouse to discuss the state of your marriage. Let's be honest, this would be difficult enough for most US citizens, regardless of birth origin. You've prepped for a year, making sure you don't give any answers that seem to even hint at anything questionable, since the interview is part of an immigration application. Not only your marriage, but your life, depends on it.

Within minutes of beginning the interview, your spouse is abruptly taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), arrested, detained, and deportation proceedings commence. This is happening at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) marriage interviews in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.

Is it legal? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is asking that very question.

The Marriage Trap, by UCSIS and ICE

Maria and Oscar Hernandez Miranda, residents of Miami, just experienced this brutal series of events. Maria is a citizen, and her husband of over 10 years, Oscar, is an immigrant from Nicaragua. Maria and her son suffer from multiple sclerosis, and Oscar is their caregiver. With Oscar in detention, Maria and her son are suffering exponentially.

Couples like the Mirandas, with one immigrant spouse and one citizen spouse, may apply for an I-130, which allows a citizen to petition for their spouse to gain citizenship under a provisional waiver. However, these couples must attend a marriage interview to prove their marriage isn't a sham, in name only, to gain citizenship. Interviews must be set up through the USCIS office. In a disturbing twist, USCIS employees and ICE employees have been coordinating the interview appointments and arrests, in what ACLU officials are calling a "trap."

Potential Class Actions Against ICE Traps

In a case currently pending in Massachusetts brought by the ACLU and plaintiff immigrants questioning the legality of these traps, ICE moved to dismiss the case. In denying ICE's motion to dismiss, US District Judge Mark Wolf ruled in August that ICE "may not order the removal of an alien pursuing a provisional waiver solely on the basis that he or she is subject to a final order of removal" and that ICE must consider whether a person is applying for a provisional waiver, and the facts of their case, before ordering removal.

This should come as a relief to Oscar Miranda, who was ordered deported back in 2005, and is currently seeking a provisional waiver based on marriage. In fact, attorneys in that Massachusetts case are looking to certify a class to make this ruling apply to many others. But unfortunately for the Mirandas, this district does not rule over Florida, and therefore Miranda could not be part of the class, even if it was certified. And the Mirandas could only site this case as influence, not precedence, in their trial.

If you or someone you love is facing immigration proceedings of any kind, whether for citizenship or deportation, seek the advice of a trained immigration attorney. Current trends are making immigration more difficult, and it may be necessary to exercise all of your legal rights as an alien. These attorneys may be able to offer you free or low-cost help, and provide you the protection and advice you need to be successful.

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