A federal judge ruled today that the 114 Iraqi immigrants arrested this month by ICE for possible deportation can remain in the U.S. for at least two more weeks as he sorts out whether the court has jurisdiction. The judge’s decision to halt the deportations for now was cheered by the ACLU of Michigan and attorneys for the Iraqi immigrants.
In a statement tonight, ICE said it will comply with the order.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a stay in a written opinion released this afternoon: “The stay shall expire 14 days from today, unless otherwise ordered by the court.”
Goldsmith said the Iraqis, many of them Christian, could face persecution in Iraq and so they should be allowed to stay until the court can make a further ruling.
“Irreparable harm is made out by the significant chance of loss of life and lesser forms of persecution that petitioners have substantiated,” Goldsmith wrote. “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.”
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Goldsmith did not make a final determination on the lawsuit, which was filed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement this month by attorneys on behalf of Iraqi nationals arrested June 11.
Goldsmith said, “the court is unsure whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction.”
In a statement after today’s decision, the Detroit office of ICE said: “ICE is currently reviewing the judge’s order. The agency intends to comply with the terms of the order, while determining the appropriate next steps.”
Thursday’s ruling was hailed as a victory by Clarence Dass, an attorney representing more than 20 of the Iraqis detained.
“We are ecstatic,” Dass said. “When your life is on the line, each day is a victory. And in this case, 14 days. We now have the breathing room to ensure that every individual detained has the proper motions filed and, ultimately, a chance to be heard. The work continues.”
Last week, Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Detroit, who is named in the lawsuit, said in a statement:
“The operation in this region was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested. The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases. I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement personnel who, day in and day out, put their lives on the line to protect this community.”
The June 11 arrests by ICE sparked protests in metro Detroit by supporters who say the Iraqis would face persecution in Iraq since many of them are Christians. Almost 200 Iraqi nationals with criminal records have been arrested recently nationwide by federal immigration agents.
ICE has defended the arrests, saying the Iraqis arrested all had criminal backgrounds and final orders of deportation from an immigration judge.
Attorneys for the Iraqis have been filing appeals for the detainees in immigration and local county courts.
“We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately be sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death,” said Michael Steinberg, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “It would be unconstitutional and unconscionable to deport these individuals without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the harm that awaits them in Iraq.”
All but two of the 114 arrested in Michigan had criminal convictions; the other two have pending criminal charges. As of April 17, there were 1,444 Iraqi nationals with final orders for removal, ICE has said.
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