A Lawrence man arrested in March at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office can continue his pursuit of legal U.S. residency, according to an agreement made in Boston federal court Friday.
Leandro Arriaga, 43, has been living in the country illegally since 2001. He was arrested while at an appointment to begin his green card application. At question Friday before federal Judge Mark Wolf was whether or not Arriaga had been detained unlawfully since his arrest.
Under an agreement reached by Arriaga's lawyer and the legal team representing the U.S. government, Arriaga will be released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody as soon as reasonably possible but no later than 12 p.m. Monday. Upon his release, Arriaga will drop his case that ICE had unlawfully detained him. ICE officials will then not seek to deport him to the Dominican Republic as he goes through the pathways to change his legal status in the U.S.
In court Friday, lawyers for Arriaga argued that the father of four U.S. citizen children posed no flight risk and is not a threat to the community. He has had no criminal charges in the 16 years that he's been living in the U.S. Dan McFadden of Foley Hoag, representing Arriaga pro bono, said that because Arriaga is married to a U.S. citizen, he was entitled to the chance to adjust his legal status.
"Here's a person who has a pathway to stay," McFadden said. "We do not believe it's in the public interest to break up families."
Lawyers for the government had argued that after ignoring an order from an immigration judge in 2001 to voluntarily leave the country, Arriaga now had final orders of removal and was eligible for immediate deportation to the Dominican Republic.
The agreement reached Friday essentially allows Arriaga to pick up where he left off in the process of obtaining a green card when he was arrested by ICE officials in March.
A second man arrested on the same day while pursuing a green card was also released on Friday in a separate proceeding before an immigration judge.
Yusuf Alptekin had been detained at Bristol County House of Corrections since being taken in to custody by ICE on March 29. Alptekin was granted a $12,000 bond in a move that surprised both his lawyer, Christina Corbaci, and his wife, Michelle. Alptekin is back with his family while his immigration proceedings play out in court.
Susan Church, head of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and an attorney representing Arriaga Friday, says they know where three of the five people arrested in March at the USCIS office are but the location of the other two people arrested that day is unknown. And that, she says, is a problem.
"It's emblematic of a real hole in the immigration system," Church said. "That if you're not wealthy enough or connected enough to hire a lawyer to help you, you'll get deported — but if you know people and you know lawyers you can sometimes get relief."
This article was originally published on May 05, 2017.
This segment aired on May 5, 2017.