The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against a Cumberland County, Pa., magisterial district judge for allegedly detaining a man with valid documentation and calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to investigate his status on his wedding day.
The ACLU filed its action on behalf of Alex Parker, who the organization claims was illegally held by Magisterial District Judge Judge Elizabeth Beckley and a Cumberland County court officer after presenting a consular ID to court staff in the courthouse.
“This should have been the happiest day of Alex and Krisha’s lives,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement released Thursday. “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.”
According to the ACLU’s complaint, Krisha Schmick, Parker’s then-fiancee and now-wife, is a U.S. citizen while Parker is a lawful permanent resident who was born in Guatemala and brought to the U.S. by prospective adoptive parents. The ACLU argued that the constitutional right to marry cannot be halted because of a person’s immigration status and the issue of Parker’s status should not have affected his ability to marry.
Beckley called in ICE officers after detaining Parker, the ACLU claimed. The officers took Parker’s fingerprints to verify his status, which they confirmed. Then the wedding proceeded as planned, though awkwardly, the ACLU said.
“Krisha and I love each other and wanted to go forward with our marriage,” Parker said in the ACLU statement. “It was unacceptable and scary for us to be treated differently because I’m Latino and was born in Guatemala.”
Beckley did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
The allegations in the ACLU’s complaint focused on Constitutional violations such as unlawful detention, interfering with the right to marry, and discrimination based on Parker’s race and national origin.
“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 ACLU immigration attorney Golnaz Fakhimi in Thursday’s statement. “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.”
Parker and his wife now reside in Florida.