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Federal judge's ruling puts brakes on effort to deport Michigan Iraqis

Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Protestors holding signs on Lafayette Street in Detroit in solidarity with the Chaldean immigrants facing possible deportation back to Iraq.

The Iraqi immigrants arrested in a Detroit-area immigration sweep this month cannot be deported for at least the next 14 days, a Detroit federal judge ruled late Thursday.

More than 100 Iraqi nationals were swept up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids earlier this month.

The government says they all have standing removal orders and criminal records, and their deportations were imminent. Most had been living in the U.S. for years under ICE supervision.

But the Michigan ACLU sued to stop that. They say the plaintiffs face possible persecution, torture or death if returned to Iraq, and were denied their due process rights to make that case in court.

Many of the plaintiffs are Chaldeans, an Iraqi Christian sect. Others are members of Muslim minority groups.

Judge Mark Goldsmith granted their request for a temporary restraining order, but did not rule on any of the legal arguments. Goldsmith said he will rule in the next two weeks on the government’s only argument in the case so far: that federal district courts don’t have jurisdiction over removal orders.

But Goldsmith said in the meantime, a stay is warranted because deporting the plaintiffs could cause “irreparable harm:”

“Irreparable harm is made out by the significant chance of loss of life and lesser forms of persecution that Petitioners have substantiated. Such harm far outweighs any conceivable interest the Government might have in the immediate enforcement of the removal orders, before this Court can clarify whether it has jurisdiction to grant relief to Petitioners on the merits of their claims.”

The 14-day stay applies to “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE Field Office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by ICE, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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