HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man who says he was unlawfully detained on his wedding day by a Pennsylvania judge who wrongly suspected he was in the United States illegally filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging violations of his constitutional rights.
Alexander Parker sued Camp Hill-based District Judge Elizabeth S. Beckley, two court entities and an unidentified court officer who, Parker says, told him he was not free to leave.
The federal lawsuit claims Guatemala-born Parker and his fiancee went to Beckley’s court office to get married in May 2017, but Beckley’s suspicions prompted her to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He had provided a valid identification issued through the Guatemalan consulate, but Beckley told him that was not sufficient, the lawsuit said.
Parker, now 22, says that after hours of being detained, federal investigators arrived and confirmed he is a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
Beckley told the couple “she was sorry Mr. Parker had been detained, but she immediately insisted she was justified in suspecting that Mr. Parker was not lawfully present in the United States,” according to the lawsuit. Beckley subsequently married the couple. The couple learned they were expecting a daughter days after they married.
Beckley did not return messages seeking comment.
The lawsuit said the court officer, who was armed and in uniform at the time of the wedding, will be named once Parker’s lawyers obtain his identity. The other defendants are Beckley’s district court and the wider state court system judicial district in which it is located. A spokeswoman for the state court system offered no immediate comment.
The Parkers now live in Kissimmee, Florida, where Parker works in landscaping, lawn care and debris removal.
Parker’s lawsuit said he “felt disrespected and diminished and was offended and disturbed that Beckley thought he was subject to deportation because he is Latino, dark-skinned and was born in Guatemala.”
Parker’s complaint says his mother gave him up for adoption as an infant, and he was brought to New Jersey as a prospective adoptee. He has never returned to Guatemala and does not speak Spanish.
During his teen years, the couple that had intended to adopt him relinquished their custody, and by the time he graduated from high school, he was in the custody of Bucks County Children and Youth Services, the lawsuit said. The couple, whom Parker said never formalized their adoption of him or two other children, did not obtain an ID card for him confirming his legal status, the lawsuit said.
Because of that, he said, he could not acquire a Pennsylvania-issued photo identification, so with the help of his Bucks County caseworker, he obtained a consular ID card from the Guatemala consulate in April 2017.
Parker is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, fees and costs.