I know, I know. This kind of sensationalist headline is usually followed by a story that shows that a guy was arrested correctly, and it had nothing to do with his religion.
But in this case, there is no other reason why my client was arrested than his religion. My client entered the US legally, on a B-2 visa. He got married to a US citizen and applied for permanent residence (all perfectly legal and above board).
My client is from a predominantly Muslim country, and he is Muslim as well. When we went to get his permanent residence, at the interview we were informed that he needed to register for NSEERS to get his green card. This was news to me. My client had no duty to register for NSEERS when he arrived — it was not like he made a mistake and did not register, nor is he an alien who ignored the registration requirements while he lived here. As a new arrival, he would have been registered upon his entry if that was necessary.
Yet, we dutifully made the appointment with CBP and went to register. At registration, my client, a non-criminal 19 year old, was arrested and taken to the Immigration Facility (PRISON) euphemistically named the “Broward Transitional Center”. When I last saw my client, he was in a 6′ by 6′ cell, with a chrome toilet with no seat. My client was shocked and terrified that he was being arrested, and I had no answers for him. It does make no sense.
I questioned the CBP officers and asked if he was being arrested for violating rules — did he not register when he should have? Did they think his marriage to the US citizen was not real? What did he do wrong?
The incredibly unsatisfying answer they gave me was that he had done nothing wrong, but since he was “out of status”, because his B-2 entry expired, they had to arrest him. I pointed out that my client was not deportable, as he was an applicant for permanent residence, but the officer said that was a matter for the Immigration Judge. My client was arrested for being Muslim.
I handle about 100 cases per year which are simple applications for permanent residence in Tampa. Very few of the applicants have current visas or are “in status”. No one, except anyone Muslim, apparently, is arrested.
We could not have extended the B-2 while pending an application for permanent residence — as one must prove that they intend to leave the US soon to extend the B-2.
My client will get his green card and will live here in the future, after being in jail for two to three weeks and dealing with incredible paperwork hassles, but now the actions of my government embarass me and make me wonder who does this arrest serve?
The arrest does not benefit the US, as this kid posed no threat to anyone. The arrest does not benefit the Immigration Court, as they have plenty of cases to deal with. The arrest most certainly does not benefit the US government’s image with Muslims in America, who already worry that they are treated differently than everyone else.