HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a magisterial district judge and a court officer in Cumberland County who summoned federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to investigate the immigration status of a man who showed up in her office to be married, the ACLU announced Thursday.
Alex Parker was illegally detained on his wedding day in 2017, the ACLU of Pennsylvania contends in its lawsuit. After Parker presented a consular ID to court staff, the ACLU of Pennsylvania claims, Judge Elizabeth Beckley and the court officer detained him in order to summon and await ICE agents.
“This should have been the happiest day of Alex and Krisha’s lives,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Instead, it turned into a nightmare because this judge took it upon herself to act like an ICE agent in response to Alex’s national origin and perceived race.”
Krisha Schmick, Parker’s then-fiancee and now-wife, is a U.S. citizen. Parker is a lawful permanent resident who was born in Guatemala and brought to the U.S. by prospective adoptive parents.
Because the constitutional right to marry cannot be hindered based on a person’s immigration status, the issue of Parker’s status should not have affected his ability to marry, the ACLU of Pennsylvania says
“Krisha and I love each other and wanted to go forward with our marriage.” Parker said. “It was unacceptable and scary for us to be treated differently because I’m Latino and was born in Guatemala.”
ICE officers arrived in response to Beckley’s call. The officers confirmed Parker’s status by taking his fingerprints, after which the couple awkwardly went ahead with the ceremony.
Today, the Parkers live in Florida.
The ACLU’s lawsuit outlines multiple illegal actions by Beckley and the court officer, including unlawful detention, interfering with the right to marry, and discrimination based on Parker’s race and national origin.
The lawsuit is based on both the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights law, the ACLU of Pennsylvania claims.
“The unlawful actions of Judge Beckley and her court officer threw this couple into upheaval on a day that was supposed to be special,” said Golnaz Fakhimi, immigrants’ rights attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Through this lawsuit, we want judges and other local officials around our state to know that civil immigration enforcement is not their job, that it undermines their duties as public servants of the commonwealth, and that it makes our communities less safe by creating fear of local law enforcement and courts.”
The lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.