Judge issues stay halting deportation of 1,444 Iraqis nationwide
A daughter of an Iraqi immigrant detained recalls when ICE agents showed up at her home in Sterling Heights on June 11 to arrest him. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — To the chagrin of the government, a Detroit federal judge Monday protected 1,444 Iraqi immigrants nationwide from being immediately deported, including some who faced possible eviction from the U.S. as early as Tuesday.
In issuing his emergency order, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith concluded the Iraqi nationals — most of them Christians — could face persecution if sent back home and deserve more time to seek legal intervention. He said the case presents "extreme circumstances" and gave all Iraqi nationals who face potential deportation an additional two weeks to legally challenge their removals.
"The substantial allegations made here are the detainees face extreme, grave consequences: death, persecution and torture," Goldsmith wrote in his seven-page order. "Such harm far outweighs any government interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately."
Goldsmith issued his written order after hearing arguments Monday from civil rights attorneys who asked him to extend a previous ruling to cover all Iraqi nationals who face the threat of deportation.
Last Thursday, Goldsmith granted temporary protection to 114 Iraqi immigrants from metro Detroit, giving them two more weeks to remain here to pursue their cases. Over the weekend, a team of civil rights attorneys sought an emergency order, asking Goldsmith to extend that ruling to cover all potential Iraqi deportees nationwide.
The government argued that the Iraqi nationals on the deportation list have criminal backgrounds, have lost the right to be here and probably will lose any appeals in immigration court. The U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency, however, has not disclosed what exact crimes all the Iraqi nationals have been convicted of, or the names of all those on the list. ICE has only stated they have criminal convictions of all sorts, without elaborating.
Attorneys for the government also have argued that Goldsmith lacks jurisdiction in the immigration case.
Goldsmith — who noted he has yet to decide on the jurisdiction issue — concluded too much is at stake not to intervene on behalf of the Iraqis nationwide who could be deported. His ruling drew praise from many lawyers who have intervened on behalf of the Iraqis and are fighting to keep them here.
"The court recognized the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the immediate risk to all of the people affected by the government action," said attorney Bill Swor, one of several lawyers who are working to help the Iraqis. "It recognized that this is an emergency and that people nationwide have the same interest in access, due process and the opportunity for a fair hearing."
Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said he respects the court's ruling, stressing it's a difficult case.
"This is an extraordinary case and these are extraordinary times. And we appreciate the thoughtful analysis the court gave this matter," Lemisch said, adding the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has a tough task at hand.
"The people at ICE have a difficult job to do and they strive mightily to do it professionally and fairly. And we appreciate all their efforts," Lemisch said.
In court Monday, immigrant advocates, along with the ACLU, argued the immigrants deserve more time to argue their cases and claimed the government was moving too fast.
"It’s the government that’s hurrying these people toward deportation," attorney Margo Schlanger, a lawyer for the Iraqi detainees, said Monday, claiming the government isn't giving the immigrants enough time to find lawyers and seek legal relief.
At issue are the June 11 arrests of numerous Iraqi nationals by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to ICE, all but two of the 114 arrested in Michigan had criminal convictions; the other two have pending criminal charges. Nationwide, ICE has said, 1,444 Iraqi nationals are on a list for deportation, though the vast majority have not yet been arrested.
So far, ICE has taken into custody about 200 Iraqis nationwide.
After the June 11 arrests in Michigan, a lawsuit was filed against ICE by immigration and civil rights advocates who were hoping to block the deportation efforts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Newby had said that not all of the Iraqi immigrants are similarly situated, noting some have been convicted of crimes more serious than others and that the immigration courts should decide these cases on an individualized basis. She also argued that the detainees probably won't win their arguments before immigration courts.
Immigration advocates disagreed and last week convinced Goldsmith that all potential Iraqi deportees deserve more time to state their cases.
"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 his ruling last week. "The public interest is also better served by an orderly court process that assures that petitioners' invocation of federal court relief is considered before the removal process continues."
ICE has previously said it will comply with the judge's order and has maintained that its actions to deport Iraqi immigrants are warranted and legal.
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