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An unconscionable betrayal of immigrants and their families

court filing by the ACLU of Massachusetts in Calderon v. Nielsen reveals that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel have actively collaborated with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate the detention and deportation of immigrants.

MIRA strongly encourages its members and concerned citizens to read the entire filing, which has prompted immediate condemnation from public officials (see letter from Congressman Michael Capuano).

Eva A. Millona, executive director of MIRA, responded with the following comments:

“The revelations in the ACLU’s court filing are deeply disturbing. We have come to recognize that at this point, ICE really is just ‘in the removal business,’ with little regard for public-safety priorities, much less the human impact of its actions. USCIS, however, has a very different mission. Every immigrant who enters this country, applies for a green card, or seeks U.S. citizenship goes through USCIS. And under our Constitution, they all deserve due process.

“The actions described in the ACLU filing amount to a betrayal not just of immigrants, but also of U.S. citizens who trust their government to treat their family members fairly and respectfully. If we can’t trust USCIS to act in good faith – if a request for an interview may be just a trap to help ICE arrest a person, even if they legally qualify for residency – the entire system falls apart. That’s simply unconscionable.”

It is important to note that this is only the latest in a series of warning signs of a fundamental change at USCIS.

Not only did the agency change its mission statement, removing any reference to a ‘nation of immigrants’ and shifting the emphasis from service to enforcement. Most recently, USCIS changed its policy on when to issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) initiating deportation proceedings. While past guidance only called for NTAs to be issued when there was a substantiated fraud claim or an ‘egregious public safety case’ (e.g. a murderer, arms trafficker or child pornographer), new guidance issued on July 5 requires USCIS to issue NTAs in all cases where denial of an application leaves a person without lawful status.

One of the emails included in Exhibit H of the ACLU filing shows how a USCIS official in Lawrence forwarded I-130 petitions to ICE to determine which immigrants should be asked to come for interviews to facilitate their arrest.