DETROIT (CN) – A class of Iraqi nationals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union sued Thursday to challenge the deportations of more than 100 immigrants arrested in Detroit last weekend, asking that they be allowed to remain in the United States to seek stays of removal.
“Law abiding individuals who have been fully compliant with their conditions of supervision suddenly found themselves arrested and transferred several hours away to a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio,” according to the lawsuit. “During the course of just a few days, more than 100 Iraqi nationals were arrested and detained, for the purpose of effectuating their removal back to Iraq.”
Represented by the ACLU, seven family members of different detainees filed the class-action habeas corpus lawsuit Thursday in Detroit federal court. The lone defendant is Rebecca Adducci, director of the Detroit District of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Although most of last weekend’s detainees were ordered removed to Iraq years ago, the government had allowed them to stay under orders of supervision, according to the complaint.
“U.S. law prohibits the removal of individuals to countries where they would face a likelihood of persecution or torture. Yet despite the clear danger that many of these individuals face in Iraq, ICE is attempting to deport them based on outstanding removal orders that do not take account of intervening changed circumstances which should entitle them to protection,” according to the lawsuit. “For example, many of the petitioners are Chaldean Christians, who are widely recognized as targets of brutal persecution in Iraq.”
ICE strongly defended the arrests in a statement released Tuesday.
“The operation in this region was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested,” Adducci said in a statement. “The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases. I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement personnel who, day in and day out, put their lives on the line to protect this community.”
ICE says it has arrested 199 Iraqi nationals nationwide since May of this year and that the majority “had convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses,” according to a statement.
Under a March 12 agreement with the government of Iraq, eight Iraqi nationals have been deported back to the country.
The family members in Thursday’s lawsuit want a judge to grant a temporary stay of the detainees until they are given ample time to reopen their removal orders and seek stays of removal.
“Petitioners, Christian and Muslim alike, cannot be removed to Iraq without being afforded a process to determine whether, based on current conditions and circumstances, the danger they would face entitles them to protection from removal,” the complaint states.
ICE declined to comment on the complaint in an email Friday.
“ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” the agency said. “These arrests are consistent with the routine, targeted enforcement action carried out by ICE’s enforcement and removal operations on a daily basis. All enforcement activities are conducted with the same level of professionalism and respect that ICE officers exhibit every day.”