A federal judge in Michigan has blocked the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, giving them time to make their cases in court before the government may deport them.  U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction request made by attorneys for the Iraqi nationals who had asked him to halt their deportation, saying they would be persecuted in Iraq. Goldsmith said the possible deportees, many whom are Chaldean Christian, would face “grave harm and possible death” in Iraq because there they are members of a persecuted minority.

In June, 234 Iraqi nationals were arrested and detained on removal orders that in most cases had been dormant for five to 10 years. For many years Iraqi has refused to accept deportees from the U.S. but they recently agreed to start accepting them after their country was taken off of the travel ban.

In addition to the 114 arrested during the ICE raids in Michigan in June, the judge’s order applies to 85 other Iraqis arrested outside the state. In total, there are 1,444 Iraqi nationals in the U.S. with final orders of deportation who could be affected by the judge’s ruling.

Judge Goldsmith entered a preliminary injunction to give the Iraqis 90 days to argue their cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the courts before the government can deport them back to Iraq.  Goldsmith said that the government made legal representation of the immigrants difficult because many of them have been moved around from state to state to different immigration centers.  Many of those targeted entered in the U.S. as children, and more than half of them have been in the country for more than a decade because Iraq refused to take them back, according to the ruling.

The court said that those detained have been housed around the country in federal detention facilities with limited access to legal advocates and their families.  Most of them are from Detroit, which has a large Chaldean Christian population.  They were targeted for deportation because they overstayed their visas or committed crimes — typically misdemeanors, according to advocates.

Clarence Dass, an attorney who represents about 25 of the 114 Iraqis arrested last month said “For people who have been learning their fate every two weeks, 90 days is a lifetime,” Dass said. “All we are asking is for a chance to show that deportation of these particular individuals is a death sentence, and the judge’s decision today allows us to do that. Once we show those facts and circumstances, I am hopeful we will be able to save their lives.”

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the agency declined to comment on the ruling. ICE has said previously that the Iraqis detained have criminal records, pose safety threats, and have already had their cases heard in courts. The crimes they were convicted of range from marijuana possession to homicide.

 

 

 

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