LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Trump administration is prohibited from executing planned immigration raids this month targeting up to 100 Cambodian refugees, many of whom have deportation orders but are protected from being re-detained without due process, a federal judge ordered Thursday.
In October 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a series of nationwide raids that swept up individuals of Cambodian descent, many of whom were born in camps housing refugees escaping the Khmer Rouge, a brutal regime whose genocide killed over 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
Many of those detained were lawful permanent residents with criminal records who had received deportation orders.
In addition to the raids, ICE also detained Cambodians when they showed up for regular check-ins with the agency.
Of the individuals who were later released, many could not be deported due to Cambodia refusing to accept them.
The refugees filed a nationwide class action lawsuit on Oct. 27, 2017 to stop any further detentions and to prevent their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution from being violated.
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney approved class protection in August to Cambodians refugees who hadn’t committed any crimes since receiving deportation orders and were subsequently released from ICE custody.
But ICE continued to re-detain class members, including through two raids conducted after plaintiffs’ lawsuit was filed, according to court papers.
Approximately 80 Cambodians, many of them class members, were detained in 2018 and interviewed for travel documents, plaintiffs’ attorneys said in court briefs.
Chhay Kim, a Cambodian immigrant, was detained even though he had reported to agency check-ins consistently for 18 years, court papers said. His wife was months away from giving birth to their fifth child when he was detained.
An attorney for a separate Cambodian individual received a notice on Dec. 17 that the U.S. government had invited Cambodian officials to conduct interviews of 100 Cambodian nationals from Jan. 28, 2019 to Feb. 8, 2019.
Interviews done in large quantities have typically been preceded by ICE raids, plaintiffs’ attorneys said in court papers.
Class members at first sought assurances that the government would provide written notice before a raid, but Justice Department attorneys said they would not do so without a court order.
When plaintiffs’ attorneys said they would seek emergency relief in court, the government asked for a delay in light of the federal government shutdown.
Plaintiffs agreed to delay their filing once assurances were made that no raids would be conducted.
On Thursday, absent any assurances that no raids would occur, Carney granted the refugees’ ex parte request for a temporary restraining order.
“Given the Government’s failure to provide the Court adequate assurances that Petitioners will be afforded sufficient pre-detention notice before the Court issues its ruling, the Court finds that a temporary restraining order is necessary,” Carney wrote in the order.
Carney also ordered the government to provide written notice to a class member at least 14 days before detention and show cause why he shouldn’t issue a preliminary injunction.
Justice Department attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
They’d failed to file an opposition to the temporary restraining order request by the court’s deadline and instead sought to delay the case until the government shutdown had ended and appropriations resumed.
Carney wrote that government attorneys must respond to his order by Jan. 10.
A hearing on the order to show cause is scheduled for Jan. 28 in federal court in Los Angeles.
Jenny Zhao, an attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said in a statement that the judge “has recognized that ICE’s campaign to arrest Cambodian refugees by ambush is likely illegal.”
“At the very least, people are entitled to some warning and an opportunity to look at their legal options and say goodbye to their families,” she said. “The order provides some relief for a community that has been re-traumatized by ICE’s tactics.”