Lilian Calderon told her daughter not to worry, that she would be coming right back. Calderon and her husband, Luis, had an interview they couldn’t miss at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Rhode Island Jan. 17.
All they had to do was prove their marriage was legitimate, the first step on a long path toward a green card. They brought family photographs, their children’s birth certificates and their marriage documents. Luis was a U.S. citizen. Calderon was undocumented. She had been brought to the United States illegally from Guatemala when she was 3.
The interviews were quick and painless. Calderon’s included “football banter,” she said.
But then ICE showed up — and it was quickly clear to Calderon that she would not be returning home to her daughter.
The 30-year-old mother of two wound up handcuffed and then detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for nearly a month, capturing the attention of the ACLU and leading to a class-action lawsuit over what attorneys have described as a “cruel bait and switch” arrest operation. According to emails between federal officials unsealed in federal court documents this week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had been coordinating with ICE to alert the agency when certain immigrants eligible for deportation showed up at the CIS office for routine interviews.