Last month, a Detroit judge blocked the immediate deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Michigan. According to ICE, all of those arrested had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, weapons violations and other offenses.
On Monday, United States District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a preliminary injunction, on the grounds that the group of Iraqis could face “grave harm and possible death” if sent home to Iraq, NBC News reported.
At the time of the arrests, community leaders challenged the possible deportation of these individuals, many of whom belonged to Michigan’s Chaldean Christian community.
Nathan Kalasho, a Chaldean American who runs a Detroit-area charter school for Chaldeans and other immigrants from Iraq and Syria, called some of the convictions “petty.”
“Some of them were nonviolent, and some of these were 30 or 40 years ago,” Kalasho told CBS News. “These people have paid their debt back to society; they contribute to the workforce, countless hours.”
Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, noted that removal orders issued by ICE, although legal, could be decades old and therefore virtually irrelevant.
“Anyone with a final order is basically vulnerable at this point,” Rabinovitz told CBS News. “The problem is, these aren’t cases where these are people who pose a risk to public safety — it’s just sort of irrational, low-hanging fruit. Get the numbers, get people out.”
In the 35-page ruling Monday, Judge Goldsmith asserted that the U.S. government had ignored “the compelling confluence of extraordinary circumstances” presented by the group and called the effort to deport these individuals “inconsistent” with the Constitution.
Goldsmith noted that certain individuals arrested by ICE agents, including Sunni Muslims, would likely be detained and possibly tortured by Iraqi security forces for associating with “western interests.”
The ruling claims that since the June 11 sweep, roughly 100 more Iraqis have been arrested and transferred to 31 facilities across the country. According to Goldsmith, many detainees have been given little access to lawyers and other assistance.
Government lawyers, however, have argued that federal courts lack jurisdiction in cases dealing with possible deportation, and that these issues must be settled by immigration courts.
Goldsmith pushed back against this assertion:
“In these singular circumstances, a federal district court is armed with the jurisdiction to act as a first responder,” he wrote, adding that federal courts can “assure that those who might be subjected to grave harm and possible death are not cast out of this country before having their day in court.”
Because the individual cases involved in this dispute are complicated, the preliminary injunction will allow more time to determine how many of the detainees pose a genuine threat to national security.