Immigration Marriage Interviews Entrap Immigrants?

A long-standing practice of Immigration Customs Service towards immigrants married to United States citizens has changed. In the past three years, we have noticed that federal agents have arrested some immigrants at the marriage interviews.

US Citizenship and Service (USCIS), as a practice, always asked an undocumented immigrant to marry a United States citizen prior to appearing for an interview. This would demonstrate the legitimacy of the marriage. If USCIS determined that the coupleā€™s marriage is legitimate, the immigration officials would then grant the undocumented spouse a waiver for unlawful presence. It appears that this is not the practice anymore. In many states, there are multiple reports that USCIS has been coordinating with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants at the marriage interviews, even if they have a legitimate marriage or children.

Since ICE broke that tradition, many immigrants who are married to US citizens and eligible to adjust status in the US are avoiding marriage interviews or are uncertain of their status after marriage. Several couples have joined together to file a class-action lawsuit alleging that federal agents have turned marriage interviews into a trap to arrest immigrants and deport them.

In the United States, many immigrants marry United States citizens. In the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an undocumented immigrant and their spouses could apply for a waiver if the US citizenship and Immigration Services determines that their marriage is legitimate. By securing the waiver path, undocumented immigrants move to the next step of the process, applying for a Lawful Permanent Resident to continue to live in the United States. At this time, a class-action lawsuit has been filed in Maryland against the federal government and USCIS for using marriage interviews to ambush undocumented immigrants and deport them. In this case, the plaintiffs are married couples who attended the marriage interviews and were found by USCIS to have legitimate marriages. However, ICE agents entered the interview room and arrested the undocumented spouses. A federal Judge already reversed the deportation for one undocumented immigrant, stating that the USCIS should not use the marriage interview as a trick.

BY: Frederik Stefani, January 31, 2020

For more information on immigration status and marriage to a US citizen, see Residency by Marriage: Rules & Risks written December 2, 2019.

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