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First on 10: Mother detained by ICE released, reunited with family

Lilian Calderon and her two children. (Submitted photo)

A Rhode Island wife and mother is now free after she spent nearly a month in federal custody.

Lilian Calderon was reunited with her husband, Luis Gordillo, in Providence Tuesday afternoon.

"He keeps on asking me if I want to eat and I'm like, 'No, I just want to see my kids,'" she told NBC 10 News.

NBC 10 has followed Calderon's story since January when she was picked up by immigration officials in Johnston.

When she and Gordillo recently went to have their marriage verified by immigration authorities in Johnston, she ended up in jail.

“They locked her up there. I wasn’t able to see her anymore and they were going to take her to Suffolk Correction in Boston,” Gordillo previously told NBC 10.

Gordillo is from Mexico, but became an American citizen shortly after graduating from Mt. Pleasant High School in Providence. He met Calderon, there. She came from Guatemala with her family when she was 3 years old, but was unable to get her citizenship.

The couple married in 2016 after having two children.

“We wanted to get married earlier when we were younger, but we always had that concern, 'What if she gets caught, picked up by immigration?" Gordillo said. "Once we had our children, we decided, 'Let’s get married and we’ll start the process, me trying to sponsor you and give you legal status in the U.S.' We thought we were doing things the proper way, and then this happened.”

The interview with authorities, which took place in mid-January, seemed to be going fine. The couple presented pictures and documents proving they were actually married, and not just pretending in order to get her into the country.

After Gordillo was interviewed, Calderon went into the room.

“She said that everything was going along fine. The gentleman that did the interview said, 'This sounds like a real marriage. I approve this. Everything, you guys have everything that we need to prove this is a real marriage,'" Gordillo said. "And then she said the gentleman received a phone call and he told her, 'There’s a gentleman outside my office that wants to ask you a question.' And she said when she went out, the ICE officer told her she was being detained because she had a deportation order."

But on Tuesday, Calderon and Gordillo arrived at their lawyer's downtown office just after 4 p.m.

Congressman Jim Langevin issued the following statement after news of her release:

“I am thrilled that Lilian Calderon has been released from ICE custody and is back in Rhode Island with her family. I spoke with Lilian and her husband shortly after her release, and she is grateful to be home and reunited with her family and young children. My delegation colleagues and I worked with the family’s attorney and local advocates to support her release, and I’m pleased we were able to achieve a positive outcome. Lilian’s case is a clear example of why we need comprehensive immigration reform to ensure our system is humane and that families are not broken apart.”

The ACLU announced it will hold a news conference on Wednesday. They also released a statement.

"Lilian’s detention was inhumane and unlawful," said Adriana Lafaille, staff attorney at ACLU of Massachusetts. "We are pleased that she is back home with her family, and will continue to work to protect Lilian’s rights and to fight against arbitrary detentions like this one."

In 2016, Calderon and Luis began a process created by the government that allows individuals in Calderon’s situation to apply for lawful permanent residency. On January 17, she appeared at the Johnston offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with Luis for an interview designed to confirm their marital relationship – the first step in the process of seeking to become a lawful permanent resident.

At the end of the interview, USCIS recognized their marital relationship as legitimate, setting her one step further along the path of seeking her status. Immediately afterward, she was abruptly detained by ICE and taken to a detention facility in Boston.

"In this case, the government’s left hand beckoned her forward, and its right hand grabbed her,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island. “This is yet another local example of families torn apart and lives disrupted for no legitimate immigration enforcement purpose. We are glad that she is able to return to Rhode Island and her family."

The ACLU of Massachusetts -- with support from the ACLU of Rhode Island -- filed a petition in federal court to seek the immediate release of Calderon. The lawsuit argued that Calderon’s detention was a violation of her constitutional right to due process and federal immigration laws and regulations.

"I am so happy to see my husband and children again and to be out of immigration detention, which was a terrible ordeal for our family,” Calderon said upon release. “What the government is doing to my family, and to so many others, is simply wrong."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted his reaction to the news.

“Happy to hear Ms. Calderon will be reunited with her family," he wrote.

Calderon and Luis are not clear where they stand in the legal process and they know she still has a long fight to become a legal resident in the United States.

But she also knows she will be with their children soon -- and she won't be waiting in jail while her legal status is explored.

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