A former attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency faces criminal charges over allegations he forged documents to make it look like a Mexican construction worker living in the country was ineligible to seek legal resident status. Jonathan Love has been charged in a federal court in Seattle, Fox News and the Associated Press reported.
Love, who is no longer employed by ICE as a result of the forgery allegation dating back to 2009, was charged with misdemeanor deprivation of rights. He was expected to make his first appearance in court Friday.
Ignacio Lanuza , the immigrant, filed a $500,000 civil suit against the immigration agency and against Love, the Seattle Times reported. The civil case was recently dismissed, but the criminal case against Love and the agency continues.
The forgery charge comes as immigrant rights activists condemned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s immigration raids that commenced at the start of the new year. Immigration enforcement officials arrested more than 120 undocumented people over two days, in an operation targeting Central American families who came to the country illegally after 2014 and had already received deportation orders.
Lanuza, who was stopped by an immigrant enforcement agent in 2008 and faced a deportation proceeding soon after, was assigned to Love, the U.S. immigration attorney. The Mexican national entered the U.S. in Seattle in 1998 and previously pleaded guilty to a nonviolent firearms charge in 2008. Having already lived in the U.S. continuously for 10 years, Lanuza married his American girlfriend a year later, hoping it would make him eligible to become a legal resident.
But in 2009, Love allegedly submitted a government document to an immigration court that he claimed was signed by Lanuza in 2000. The attorney had allegedly forged the date on the document to make the Mexican construction worker ineligible for legal status, authorities said.
Lanuza civil case lawyer Matt Adams of the Northwest Immigration Rights Project told AP charges against Love "are an important step in establishing accountability and sending a clear message that all people are entitled to a fair hearing."
He added: "We hope that the Department of Homeland Security will review all of the cases this ICE attorney handled to determine whether there are other victims who need relief. The anti-immigrant forces that express outrage over people violating our immigration law, demanding their immediate deportation, ignore the fact that those same immigration laws provide many people an opportunity to demonstrate that they qualify for lawful residence or other lawful status in this country."