Federal agents may be luring married couples to marriage interviews to arrest and deport immigrant spouses. Traditionally, undocumented immigrants who married U.S. citizens were granted waivers once the United States Customs and Immigration Service determined that their marriages were legitimate. Because of this new practice, many immigrants who are eligible to move forward in the legalization process are avoiding the interviews, continuing to live with the uncertainty of illegal status. In recent months, several couples have joined together to file a class-action lawsuit against the government for turning marriage interviews into a trap to arrest and deport undocumented spouses instead of granting them waivers.
Marriage Interviews to Secure Waivers
Many undocumented immigrants marry U.S. citizens. Under federal regulations, undocumented immigrants and their spouses can apply for a waiver of unlawful presence if the USCIS determines that their marriages are legitimate. Securing a waiver of unlawful presence allows undocumented immigrants to move forward to the next step in the process of applying for a green card to continue living in the U.S. legally. When a U.S. citizen marries an undocumented immigrant, he or she can petition the USCIS to secure a marriage visa for the undocumented spouse. However, the USCIS closely examines marriages to ensure that they are legitimate. As a part of that process, the agency will schedule a marriage interview at which the married couple can present their documents and evidence that their marriage is real. In the past, if the USCIS official determined that a couple’s marriage was real, the official would then grant the undocumented spouse a waiver of unlawful presence. However, there have been multiple reports in different states that the USCIS has been coordinating with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants when they attend their marriage interviews despite having legitimate marriages.
Lawsuit Against the Government
A class-action lawsuit has been filed in Maryland against the federal government and the USCIS for using marriage interviews to trap undocumented immigrants. The plaintiffs in the case are married couples who attended marriage interviews and were found to have legitimate marriages only to have ICE agents enter the room and arrest the undocumented spouse. Several people have been deported, and others have been detained for months. A judge has already reversed the deportation of one man, stating the government cannot use marriage interviews as traps.