A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney allegedly forged a document to make it look like a Mexican immigrant who wanted to stay in the U.S. was not eligible to do so, authorities said Wednesday.
Jonathan M. Love was charged with a misdemeanor of depriving the rights of the Mexican man in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The charges follow a civil lawsuit filed last year by Ignacio Lanuza against Love and the federal government that sought damages for the legal costs he suffered because of the ordeal.
The civil case against Love was dismissed and appealed, but the case against the government continues is ongoing.
Lanuza was stopped by an ICE officer in 2008 and the agency started deportation proceedings, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Love was assigned to the case in 2009 and submitted a document to the Immigration Court that he said was signed by Lanuza in 2000. Prosecutors allege Love forged the date to make Lanuza ineligible to have his removal canceled.
Matt Adams, a lawyer for the Northwest Immigration Rights Project who represented Lanuza in the civil case, said the charges against Love "are an important step in establishing accountability and sending a clear message that all people are entitled to a fair hearing."
"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," Adams said in an email. "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."
Lanuza first entered the U.S. in 1998 and settled in Seattle. He was caught by ICE in 2008 after pleading guilty to unlawfully displaying a weapon after handling a friend’s pistol at a party, according to the lawsuit. The following year, he married his girlfriend, a U.S. citizen. He was seeking to have his deportation canceled because of the marriage and because he met the stipulation of being in the U.S. continuously for 10 years.
Lanuza and now federal prosecutors say Lanuza did not sign that form and say Love forged the document.
In doing so, Love, while acting as a lawyer, deprived Lanuza of his constitutional rights, including the right of a "full and fair immigration removal proceeding free from false and fabricated evidence."
Love is scheduled to make his first appearance on the misdemeanor charge on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.