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Immigrant Man in Maryland Had Been Torn from His Family Following a Marriage Interview
GREENBELT, MD – In a sharp rebuke of a cruel practice by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) -- ruled “a trap for unsuspecting applicants” –Judge George J. Hazel, of federal district court in Maryland, has granted a preliminary injunction blocking ICE from removing a long-time Maryland resident from the United States while he challenges that practice in court. The family’s case challenges ICE’s “bait and switch” practice of detaining immigrants for deportation when they show up for scheduled interviews and meetings required as part of their effort to gain legal status.
“I’m so happy, it was so hard being away from my family,” said Mr. Wanrong Lin. Mr. Lin’s wife, Ms. Dong, added: “The kids and I are relieved that Wanrong is home safe with us. I don’t know what we would have done if he had to go back to China.”
In March, Judge Hazel heard argument in Lin v. Nielsen, considering the request of Mr. Wanrong Lin and Ms. Hui Fang Dong that Mr. Lin be permitted to remain with his family as he continues the legal process to secure permanent residence in the U.S. In granting a preliminary injunction barring Mr. Lin’s deportation, Judge Hazel said: “To allow removal under these circumstances would permit the government to erect an impenetrable barrier to completion of the provisional waiver process and, indeed, to use it as a trap for unsuspecting applicants.” The ruling goes on to find that “this order is in the public interest, as it requires DHS to comport with its own rules and regulations, and bars arbitrary and capricious agency action towards vulnerable undocumented immigrants.”
“After being forceably separated from his wife and children for months, we are thankful that Mr. Lin and his family can remain together and find some peace while they continue the complicated immigration process that allows Mr. Lin access to a Green Card,” said Immigrants’ Rights Fellow, Nick Steiner, the ACLU attorney who argued the case in March. “The immigration regulations protect vulnerable immigrants like Mr. Lin, and ICE may not trample on those protections as part of the Trump Administration’s war on immigrant families.”
Nathaniel Berry and Maria Rodriguez of Venable, LLP partnered with the ACLU to bring the lawsuit. Said Rodriguez: “This ruling shows that an independent judiciary is vital and necessary to our democracy. It is only thanks to federal judges that this administration’s often harsh and illegal immigration practices have been kept in check.”
Residents of the small town of California, in Southern Maryland, Mr. Lin, an undocumented immigrant, and Ms. Dong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, were separated by ICE’s “bait and switch” practice last August. Like other ICE offices across the country, the Baltimore ICE office is detaining and deporting some non-citizen spouses of U.S. citizens when they show up for appointments required as part of the immigration process to allow those spouses a chance to obtain legal status and remain in the United States. Late last year, the ACLU of Maryland filed suit in Greenbelt minutes before ICE put Mr. Lin on a plane for deportation to Shanghai, China.
In a remarkable and dramatic turn of events, Judge Hazel convened an emergency hearing after the plane took off and was en route to China, heard arguments while the plane remained aloft, and shortly before touchdown ruled that ICE had treated Mr. Lin in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, in violation of its own regulations, ordering Mr. Lin’s return to the United States. He was subsequently returned to Maryland, and rejoined his wife and three U.S. citizen children in time for the winter holidays.
Importantly, Judge Hazel recognized in yesterday’s ruling the terrible harm that would be created by ICE’s bait and switch tactic if the preliminary injunction was not granted: “[Mr. Lin] would be indefinitely separated from his wife and his three adolescent children. His wife would suffer both the emotional harm of being separated from her husband and raising their children alone, as well as the economic harm from losing her partner in their family-owned restaurant.”
Mr. Wanrong Lin and Ms. Hui Fang Dong are represented by Nick Steiner and David Rocah of the ACLU of Maryland, and Maria Rodriguez and Nathaniel Berry of Venable LLP.