Legal resident sues central Pa. judge over wedding day detainment

Inside a courtroom at the Cumberland County courthouse. (Tim Lambert/WITF)

Inside a courtroom at the Cumberland County courthouse. (Tim Lambert/WITF)

A man who was says he was wrongfully detained on his wedding day by a central Pennsylvania judge has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against her and other members of the court.

Alexander Parker said when he and his fiancée showed up for their scheduled marriage ceremony at a court office in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, in May 2017, District Judge Elizabeth Beckley questioned whether he was in the country legally.

A court officer allegedly told Parker he could not leave the office and Beckley called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate.

Golnaz Fakhimi, an immigrants’ rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and one of Parker’s lawyers, said the judge made the wrong move.

“Local officials like Judge Beckley don’t have legal authority to enforce federal civil immigration laws,” Fakhimi said.

The ACLU said Beckley and the unnamed court officer violated Parker’s civil rights with unlawful detention, interfering with the right to marry, and discrimination based on Parker’s race and national origin.

Parker is a lawful permanent resident who was born in Guatemala and brought to the United States for adoption before his first birthday.

His adoption was never completed, and Parker’s prospective parents neglected to get an ID card confirming his lawful permanent resident status before giving up custody. That left Parker with only a consular ID from the Guatemalan consulate while he applied for a green card. The lawsuit states a consular ID is a valid option for many things, including getting a marriage license.

After ICE agents confirmed Parker was in the country legally, Beckley did perform the marriage. Parker and his wife now live in Florida.

Fakhimi said her client wants to make a point with this lawsuit

“That what happened to them that day was wrong and shouldn’t have happened, and they don’t want to have this happen to any other couple like them,” Fakhimi said.

Fakhimi said situations like Parker’s ultimately hurt public safety because it could make other community members distrust law enforcement or the courts.

Parker is seeking monetary damages and is in discussions about punitive actions with his attorneys, said Fakhimi.

Beckley did not return a message seeking comment.

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