A group of Maryland families allege that Baltimore immigration officials are participating in a “bait and switch” tactic in which they detain people visiting the office who believe they’re participating in a legal green card process after getting married.
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a news release that six Maryland families allege officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Baltimore field office tricked immigrants into thinking they were at the office to talk about their green card eligibility after marrying, then detained them to start the process of deportation.
The ACLU wrote that six couples — Elmer and Alyse Sanchez, Jean Claude Nana and Amira Abbas Abdalla, Jose Carlos and Olivia Aldana Martinez, Misael and Theresa Rodriguez Peña, Mwiti and Tatyana Murithi, and Eric and Bibiana Ndula — are seeking to file a class action lawsuit against the practice.
“ICE officials are deceptively inviting immigrants into their office and then snatching them when they complete the first step of becoming a Green Card holder as the spouse of a U.S. citizen,” the ACLU wrote.
“The families’ experience makes clear there is an unlawful pattern of trickery by the Department of Homeland Security, in violation of Constitutional and statutory practices established for immigrant families seeking legal status,” the ACLU wrote.
A spokesman for ICE declined to comment Tuesday.
The group is alleging the office is improperly using the “stateside waiver process" — which can grant temporary waiver status to noncitizens seeking legal status after marrying a U.S. citizen — to detain noncitizens for deportation.
In a statement, Alyse Sanchez said she and her husband Elmer, who is originally from Honduras, went to the Baltimore office for a marriage interview when Elmer was led into a different room and placed in handcuffs.
“I was guided out of the room and then they detained my husband,” Sanchez said. “I cried and asked, ‘Can’t I say goodbye to him?’ They said that was against policy.”
ICE released Elmer Sanchez from detention after the ACLU filed an emergency order June 13 against his detainment, the group wrote.
In May, U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel ruled that a Maryland resident was impermissibly arrested when he showed up for an interview for an application for a stateside waiver.
At the time, Hazel called the tactic “a trap for unsuspecting applicants,” something the ACLU noted in its release.
Nick Steiner, an immigrants rights fellow at the ACLU, wrote that the Baltimore office “is clearly following a practice that disregards the rules and regulations that are meant to prevent such family separation.”
“They cannot continue traumatizing immigrant families unchecked, and in complete disregard of the statutory and constitutional protections that exist for immigrants,” Steiner wrote.