A U.S. federal judge shielded 1,444 Iraqi immigrants this week, most of them Christians, from being immediately deported.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit, Michigan, issued an emergency order after hearing arguments from civil rights attorneys Monday morning. Goldsmith concluding the Iraqi nationals could face persecution if deported back to their home country and they deserve more time to seek legal intervention, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The judge gave all Iraqi immigrants who face possible eviction from the United States another two weeks to legally challenge their removals.
“The substantial allegations made here are the detainees face extreme, grave consequences: death, persecution and torture,” Goldsmith reportedly wrote in his seven-page order. “Such harm far outweighs any government interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately.”
Most of the immigrants are Chaldeans, or Catholics who hail from Iraq, and some of them faced the threat of being deported as early as Tuesday. Although Christians make up less than 5 percent of Iraq’s total population of 36 million, they represent nearly half of Iraqi refugees living in nearby countries, according to the United Nations.
A report recently published by Open Doors USA, Served and Middle East Concern estimates that roughly half of the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria have fled since the Syrian civil war started in 2011. The report cites “the violence of conflict, including the almost complete destruction of some historically Christian towns in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the emigration of others and loss of community, the rate of inflation and loss of employment opportunities and the lack of educational opportunities” as the main factors for leaving.
(H/T Detroit Free Press)