(Cross-posted from NYCLU)

Antonio Martinez to Reunite with Family After Months in Custody

NEWARK – A federal judge today ordered the release of Antonio Martinez, a Queens, New York resident and father of two detained during a routine immigration interview three months ago. Like Pablo Villavicencio, the New York City pizza delivery man who was arrested in June, Martinez is married to a U.S. citizen and was arrested by ICE while in the process of applying for residency status. Martinez’s arrest appears to be part of a pattern targeting spouses of U.S. citizens when they present themselves at federal immigration offices as part of the process to obtain legal status.

Martinez was detained when he and his wife Vivian arrived at a scheduled immigration interview at 26 Federal Plaza on April 27. After his arrest, his wife was told this was the result of a new ICE policy to detain anyone with a prior order of removal who comes to their office for an interview — even though federal regulations were expanded in 2016 to permit couples with one partner who has an outstanding removal order to apply for residency status.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit challenging this new policy and seeking a stay of deportation and Martinez’s release.

Martinez will be released from the Hudson County Jail in Kearny New Jersey Friday night and will be met by his wife Vivian, his 2-year-old daughter and his 4-month-old son.

Vivian Martinez: “Finally we have justice, I am beyond happy. The fact that he was detained, and we had to wait all this time, just shouldn’t happen. I just spoke with Antonio and told him to pack up his things, we’re on our way to get him. He’s coming home.”

Paige Austin, NYCLU staff attorney: “We are so excited that Antonio is going home with his family. He should never have been detained in the first place. Antonio and his wife Vivian showed up to their immigration interview, following an established process that was created to keep families together. We are celebrating today, but we will keep fighting to stop ICE from using a bait-and-switch to lure immigrants into detention and deportation.”

Liza Weisberg, ACLU of NJ staff attorney: “We’re thrilled that justice was served today. Stories like his are too common but Antonio and his family will be a beacon of hope for many. We’re grateful that this chapter for them has passed and we’re committed to fighting back against the injustices the Trump administration continues to throw in the paths of families who embody the best of our values.”

In addition to Austin, NYCLU staff who worked on Martinez’s case include Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, Staff Attorney Jordan Wells, and Paralegal Ingrid Sydenstricker; in addition to Anello, ACLU of New Jersey staff who worked on the case include Staff Attorney Liza Weisberg, Senior Supervising Attorney Alexander Shalom, Acting Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero and Legal Intern Gabriella Romano; support for the Martinez family has come from Make the Road New York.