Federal Judge Halts Deportations of Iraqi Detainees

(CN) – A federal judge granted a temporary two-week stay Thursday for more than 100 Iraqi nationals arrested by immigration officials in Michigan, blocking their deportations for now.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week on behalf of a class of Iraqi nationals to challenge the imminent deportations of more than 100 immigrants recently arrested in Detroit.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted the plaintiffs a 14-day stay of the government’s execution of their final orders of removal.

“Irreparable harm is made out by the significant chance of loss of life and lesser forms of persecution that Petitioners have substantiated,” Goldsmith wrote in a six-page opinion. “Such harm far outweighs any conceivable interest the government might have in the immediate enforcement of the removal orders, before this court can clarify whether it has jurisdiction to grant relief to petitioners on the merits of their claims.”

The temporary stay will allow the court to determine whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the case, according to the ruling.

Khaalid Walls, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said it is currently reviewing the judge’s order.

“The agency intends to comply with the terms of the order, while determining the appropriate next steps,” Walls said via email.

The ACLU’s habeas corpus class action was brought on behalf of seven family members of different detainees, and was filed against Rebecca Adducci, director of ICE’s Detroit district.

Although many of those arrested were ordered removed to Iraq years ago, the government had allowed them to stay under orders of supervision, according to the lawsuit.

Judge Goldsmith noted in Thursday’s ruling that detainees’ repatriation to Iraq became possible when the country recently agreed to issue required travel documents in exchange for being removed from President Donald Trump’s March 6 revised travel ban executive order.

“After their arrest, the vast majority of petitioners were transferred to the Northeast Ohio Correction Center in Youngstown, Ohio where they face imminent removal to Iraq,” the judge wrote.

ICE says it has arrested 199 Iraqi nationals since May. Adducci said in a statement that the majority of those arrested in the Detroit area “have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases.”

The detainees’ family members argue that many of those facing deportation to Iraq would be placed in danger due to their religion.

“Petitioners state that because of their having resided in the United States and their status as religious minorities – many are Christian, others are members of oppressed Muslim sects – they are likely to be persecuted, tortured, or killed by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the de facto government in many parts of Iraq,” Goldsmith wrote in his opinion.

The plaintiffs seek relief from removal under both the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides asylum for refugees, and the Convention Against Torture, which bars removal to a country where ones’ life or freedom would be threatened.

Additionally, they argue that the government has violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause by refusing to consider “Iraq’s changed conditions prior to removal.”

Judge Goldsmith said, “In light of…complex jurisdictional issues, and the speed with which the government is moving to remove petitioners, it is necessary to stay petitioners’ removal pending the court’s determination regarding its jurisdiction.”

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