October 9, 2019
"In my opinion, it makes sense for us to arrest aliens with final removal orders as they represent the end of the line in the removal process," wrote Andrew Graham, a Boston-based ICE officer. "They are typically the easiest to remove, they have the shortest average length of stay, and at the end of the day we are in the removal business and it's our job to locate and arrest them.”
Graham was commenting on one of the latest ways that ICE locates, detains and removes people who are unauthorized: marriage interviews.
So, USCIS has a process for people whose presence in this country is unauthorized who wish to have their status authorized if they have become married while here. The process requires them to, in part, demonstrate that their marriage is legitimate. An interesting concept in and of itself - but not the point of this post. As to the process, from NBC News:
Federal regulations allow U.S. citizens...to try to legalize the status of spouses...who [have] 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.
A quick note - from a conversation with a friend who has been through this process - this brief synopsis (“thousands of families are doing it…”) does not convey the difficulty of the process, or the expense in lawyers fees and application fees (over $10,000 in this case). That said, successfully navigating these procedures is important for families to have security and to remain united. Prior to the Obama era rule permitting the waiver, immigrant spouses had to leave the country and then wait 3 to 10 years before trying to come back in (based on 1996 Clinton era legislation).
So, what is going on now? Again from NBC News:
Obama-era regulations provide for this [waiver], even for people with deportation orders. The months-long process typically requires couples to demonstrate the legitimacy of their marriage as part of the first step. If the couples pass the interview and earn other approvals, immigrant spouses eventually must travel abroad for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate. Only if they receive a visa can they return to the U.S. legally.
It's unclear how many individuals have successfully become permanent U.S. residents through the process. It facilitates a proper record for families with mixed citizenship, and it's meant "to avoid the grievous consequences of forcing a spouse or parent to leave" the U.S. for years while trying to build a lawful immigration case from their home countries, the ACLU says.
Now, the plaintiffs say, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is unlawfully using the process as bait. ACLU of Maryland attorney Nick Steiner said it began in 2017 and seems to happen randomly nationwide.
This practice has become the target of a class action law suit - and there is some hope for restitution:
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."
New platform encourages/helps ICE officers to leave their job
So, if you are tired of being in the “removal” business, Never Again Action can help you get a new job. The organization is organized by a Jewish social justice group, and the release timed to correspond to Yom Kippur. From Newsweek :
The Never Again Action group's Atlanta branch launched the website, saying it wanted to put out the call for a "mass exodus and atonement" for ICE workers "as we approach Yom Kippur."
With the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, taking place on Tuesday, the group said it was the perfect time for ICE workers to "quit your jobs."
The organization also appears to be making good on its word to help agents do just that, setting up a career support website that will match ICE workers with a "qualified career adviser."
The site has just launched, and it is not clear how many ICE workers have utilized the services so far. This is an interesting idea, one that offers a path of resistance while also humanizing the people working for ICE:
"We know it's easy for protesters to chant 'quit your job,' but that it's a lot easier said than done," the website states. "We know you have bills to pay, and might have family members relying on your salary or health benefits. That's why we're providing this free and confidential service: to help you find a new and better job, so you can quit your ICE job as quickly as possible."
ICE leadership, as you might imagine, is not impressed. Clearly missing the point, ICE Acting Press Secretary Bryan Cox said, "The men and women of ICE are public servants who faithfully execute federal law as passed by Congress….Demonizing career law enforcement officials with lies and misinformation is disgraceful.”
Cox also seems to have missed the past two and half years of the current executive authorities circumventing the law “as passed by Congress” to make the removal business even more profitable.
In any event, if you know anyone working for ICE - let them know there is help out there if they want to change jobs.