The failure of the U.S immigration system is leaving spouses confused and many people are discouraged from applying for immigration relief for fear of becoming separated from their families. Several spouses and immigrant advocacy groups have moved to file lawsuits alleging that immigration officials have developed an illegal pattern of separating families and detaining noncitizen spouses who are trying to obtain lawful immigration status.These lawsuits came amid calls by President Trump for the U.S Congress to halt legal immigrants from helping extended family members move to the U.S. through what he referred to as “chain migration.”
Undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, under regulations enacted in 2016, are allowed to remain in the country while pursuing permanent residency by going through a process to seek waivers.
Changes in How ICE Handles Immigrants
In a growing number of cases, immigrants are getting the go-ahead to pursue lawful status after an interview by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only to be arrested by ICE. This has left many spouses wondering if they should make the move to attend those meetings and work toward gaining legal residency. In one case, a married couple was torn apart when one spouse was put in handcuffs and taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in what they thought was a routine green card meeting with the USCIS. Their marriage had been proven to be legitimate and when they were a step closer to achieving the legal status, the ICE officials came in.
As provided by immigration law, ICE has the right to arrest individuals who are in the country unlawfully regardless of whether they have a spouse or children. But previous presidential administrations allowed ICE to overlook those who had U.S ties and no criminal records. Now, under Trump administration, ICE agents can arrest anyone who’s in the country unlawfully. This aggressive immigration tactic just started in the last few weeks but has affected many families in that short period.
For decades, marriage to an American citizen has been a virtual guarantee of legal residency if the spouses were able to prove that their relationship was legitimate. However, with the government’s fierce pursuit of unauthorized immigrants, those who were ordered deported years ago are finding that marriage and family are no longer a defense.