Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian, June 27, 2017
More than 1,400 Iraqi nationals in the US have been protected from deportation for the next two weeks, because of an order issued late on Monday by a federal district judge.
Judge Mark Goldsmith temporarily halted deportations while he considers a class-action lawsuit representing 114 Iraqis who were arrested in the Detroit area earlier this month.
Attorneys say the defendants, most of whom are members of the Chaldean minority, could face persecution or death if returned to their country of birth. Islamic State and other jihadist groups have targeted Christians, including Chaldeans, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.
Goldsmith said on Monday that given evidence provided about the “extraordinarily grave consequences” detainees could face if returned to Iraq, he would extend an existing halt on deportations to all 1,444 Iraqi nationals who are subject to orders of removal.
“Such harm far outweighs any interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately,” Goldsmith said.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a series of raids on Iraqi communities following negotiations between the US and Iraq, which resulted in Iraq agreeing, for the first time in several years, to provide travel documents to people the US attempted to deport.
Members of the Chaldean community said most of the 114 people arrested had been subject to orders of removal because they had overstayed visas or been convicted of crimes several years ago, in some cases decades. Those arrested included people brought to the US as children and teenagers in the 1970s, who have little connection to their birth country.
Raids also took place this month in Nashville, Tennessee, where members of the Iraqi Kurdish community said ICE agents arrested people with removal orders, then went door-to-door questioning Kurdish families.
Goldsmith first halted the deportations of the 114 Detroit-area Iraqis last week. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the judge to consider expanding his order. That night, Goldsmith scheduled an emergency hearing for Monday.
In court on Monday, Margo Schlanger, an attorney for the Iraqi immigrants, said the defendants needed time to file petitions to re-open their deportation cases.
“It’s the government that is hurrying these people toward deportation,” Schlanger said.