Six Maryland families targeted by a cruel “bait and switch” tactic by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or who fear falling victim to it, seek to form a class action lawsuit against the practice of arresting and detaining immigrants at marriage interviews that are supposed to be a protected part of the process for immigrants married to U.S. citizens to obtain lawful immigration status. Instead, 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 families’ experience makes clear there is an unlawful pattern of trickery by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in violation of Constitutional and statutory protections established for immigrant families seeking legal status.
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 seek to form a separate class action challenging ICE’s bait-and-switch practice.
The immigration process that these Maryland families are trying to use the “stateside waiver process” — a lengthy and complicated immigration procedure available to immigrants with deportation orders to receive a Green Card as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. The first step is to file a form I-130 petition, which necessitates a marriage interview where an immigration officer assesses the bona fides of the petitioners’ marriage to ensure it was not entered into for any improper purpose. Then, the immigrant must obtain various waivers to restrictions on re-entry, exit the U.S. and obtain the proper paperwork from a U.S. consulate abroad. With visa in hand, the immigrant then returns to the U.S. and may enter as a legal permanent resident. The whole process takes years to complete, so federal immigration laws and regulations created the possibility of completing the necessary paperwork “stateside”, so that the immigrant does not have to wait abroad for approval of all the forms. These regulations turned a years-long family separation into a matter of weeks or months.

Blog: "Inside Detention Camps: A True Story" (August 8, 2019)

The ACLU of Maryland is currently litigating two legal cases related to ICE's cruel “bait and switch” tactic. Read about Lin v. Nielsen here.


Nick Taichi Steiner and David Rocah of the ACLU of Maryland, and Seth Rosenthal, Nathaniel Berry, and Katherine Sochacki of Venable LLP

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Venable LLP

Date filed

November 19, 2018


U.S. District Court of Maryland


U.S. District Court Judge George Hazel



Case number