Immigrants testify about ordeal of detention, separation from families
It has been nearly seven months since US Immigration and Customs Enforcement released Lilian Calderon from detention, but her children are still in therapy and her husband now takes medication for anxiety and depression.
Lucimar de Souza was released in May, but she still has to wear a monitoring bracelet that shames her so much she avoids the beach or any clothing that would reveal it.
If she were deported to Brazil, she said, her 10-year-old American son and her husband, also a US citizen with medical problems, would have to come with her and face an uncertain future.
“My life would be ruined,” de Souza said in Portuguese through an interpreter in US District Court Tuesday.
The two women were called before Judge Mark Wolf during a second day of hearings to determine the fate of a lawsuit the women have filed with three other immigrants against the Department of Homeland Security. The five plaintiffs, along with their spouses, are asking Wolf to file an injunction against ICE to prevent the agency from arresting them and detaining them as they seek legal status through their spouses.
Their attorneys have said that ICE violated federal regulations because the agency did not consider that the immigrants may have qualified for provisional waivers available to people with final removal orders. Those waivers allow an immigrant to stay in the United States with their families while their applications for legal residency are pending.
The government said that ICE is not obligated to consider those waivers because immigrants who have just begun the application process do not have the right to seek such relief.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice, who are representing DHS, are seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit arguing that Wolf does not have jurisdiction to decide the case because the district courts have no authority to interfere with ICE removal orders.
Wolf indicated Monday he believes he has that authority and could take action against ICE if he determines the agency did not consider the possibility of provisional waivers when it arrested and detained immigrants seeking I-130 forms, a common way for immigrants with American relatives to begin the process of obtaining legal status. The provisional waivers are written into DHS regulations. DHS oversees ICE. Wolf said he would make a decision on the case as early as Thursday.
Wolf asked to hear from Calderon, who came to the United States from Guatemala when she was 3, and de Souza because he wanted to hear about the “irreparable harm” separation from their families would cause.
The two women testified in front of two ICE officials: Rebecca Adducci, who ICE brought in from Detroit in June to serve as acting Boston field director, and Todd Lyons, who took over the position on Sunday.
They listened as de Souza and Calderon described the toll their detentions took on their families. Both women were detained in January after meeting with government officials who told them they were approved for an I-130 form.
Calderon, the mother of a 2-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl, wept as she described how her arrest and detention affected her husband, Luis Gordillo, a US citizen who also testified on Tuesday.
“My husband is one of the strongest men I know,” she said. “It’s hard for me to see this man who has always taken care of us break down because a court date is looming . . . If I don’t reply to a phone call or a text, he thinks the worst.”
Adducci acknowledged that both women could have qualified for stays of removal based on their family connections.
“They have immediate family ties. They have approved I-130s,” Adducci said. “That would definitely weigh in their favor.”
She said she had not known that people with final orders of removal could receive provisional waivers to stay in the country until she was deposed in July by the immigrants’ attorneys.
“I was aware of the provisional waiver process,” said Adducci, who has worked in immigration enforcement for 31 years. “I just didn’t know the level of detail and who it applied to.”
Adducci replaced Lyons in June after he had served for only four days as director.
Kevin Prussia, one of the lawyers for the immigrants, asked Adducci if Lyons was removed because at a May hearing before Wolf, Lyons testified that he would instruct officers not to arrest and detain immigrants who came to government offices for scheduled visits.
“I don’t believe so. No,” Adducci replied. Adducci said her tenure was only supposed to last 60 days.
Lyons returned to the role on Sunday.
Lyons, who took the stand after Adducci, said he was initially replaced in June because his supervisors decided a “more seasoned” official should take over the office, which was dealing with a high amount of turnover.
Lyons said a person with a final order of removal is still subject to detention but the Boston field office has not arrested people at government offices since the lawsuit was filed in February.
Adducci said she when she took over in June, she instructed that any planned arrests at government offices should “come up the chain” to her.
Lyons said he would continue that practice and focus ICE’s limited resources on cases of immigrants involved in dangerous crimes.