US judge halts deportation of Iraqis

Judge halts deportation of Iraqis across the US on humanitarian grounds
2 min read
27 June, 2017
A US federal judge halted the deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during immigration sweeps across the US on Monday, after a civil liberties group pointed toward humanitarian concerns.
Most of those arrested in the Detroit area were Chaldeans, or Iraqi Catholics [Getty]

The deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during recent immigration sweeps across the US was halted by a federal judge on Monday, in what is deemed to be a success for lawyers and activists pushing for the rights of immigrants.

US District Judge Mark Goldsmith's decision, which covers those detained during immigration sweeps this month until at least July 10, sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, who urged him to expand a temporary block on the deportation of 114 Iraqi immigrants arrested in Detroit.

Goldsmith agreed with the ACLU on the grave consequences deportees may face, writing in his seven-page opinion and order that: "Such harm far outweighs any interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately."

In a court filling on Saturday, attorneys representing the immigrants and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals could be deported.

They face "the very real probability of persecution, torture or death" based on the recent government actions. The filing seeks class-action status for the case.

"These individuals, many of whom have lived in the United States for decades and have US citizen spouses and children, now face deportation as a result of (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's) sudden decision to remove them based on removal orders, which may be decades old," according to an amended complaint filed in federal court in Detroit.

Even though most of the Iraqis were ordered to be deported years ago, "the government released them, often under orders of supervision", Saturday’s filing said. 

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt praised the ruling for saying that "the lives of these individuals should not depend on what part of the United States they reside and whether they could find a lawyer to file a federal court action."

Most of those arrested in the Detroit area were Chaldeans, or Iraqi Catholics, however ACLU urged for a nationwide protection of Iraqis detained during the immigration sweep - a call heeded by the judge on Monday's decision.

Many have lived in the US so long that they no longer speak Arabic, immigration lawyers and activists say.

Some of those arrested in recent weeks had criminal convictions for crimes including assault, rape, murder, burglary, drug trafficking, and other offenses.

But many of those slated to be deported came to the United States as children and have already served sentences for their crimes, some of which were committed over 25 years ago.