DETROIT (CN) – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed an appeal with the Sixth Circuit challenging a federal judge’s order releasing more than 100 Iraqi nationals who had been languishing in immigration-detention facilities for months.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a class of Iraqi nationals to challenge their imminent deportations after they were arrested last year in Detroit.
In January, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a 46-page opinion ordering the release of all Iraqi nationals being detained by the United States who had final orders of removal at any point between March 1, 2017, and June 24, 2017.
The decision came six months after the judge found that the rounded-up immigrants must be given a hearing before they can be deported.
On Friday, Detroit ICE Field Director Rebecca Adducci, Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan and Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen appealed Judge Goldsmith’s ruling to the Sixth Circuit.
ICE said it arrested at least 199 Iraqi immigrants last year, claiming 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,” Judge Goldsmith wrote in a prior ruling last summer.
The judge had given ICE officials until Feb. 2 to release the detainees unless an immigration court held the required bond hearings.
“While that immigration court process proceeds apace, the aliens who were arrested have now languished in detention facilities — many for over six months — deprived of the intimacy of their families, the fellowship of their communities, and the economic opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones,” Goldsmith wrote.
At the time of the release order, ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said the agency was “deeply disturbed” by the decision. He did not immediately respond Monday to an email request for comment on the Sixth Circuit appeal.
Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a phone interview Monday that she is optimistic the release order will be upheld by the Sixth Circuit.
“In general, the effect of detention is it coerces people into giving up their rights,” Rabinovitz said. “That’s what’s so awful about it. By locking people up while they’re fighting their cases, people become demoralized and they stop fighting.”
She added that “detention should serve a purpose.”
“It’s really egregious to think the government would be locking people up who pose no danger or flight risk, for long periods of times,” she said. “I mean, we’re locking people up in jails. We’re separating them from their families. They’re losing their jobs, they’re losing their businesses, their wives or fiancées are giving birth or having miscarriages. It’s really obscene, to tell you the truth, to be locking people up if they’re not a danger or flight risk when all we’re asking for is a bond hearing. These are people who have lived in the community for years.”