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ACLU: Expand temporary stay on Iraqi deporations nationwide

Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Protestors rallied in Detroit in solidarity with Iraqi nationals facing possible deportation to Iraq.

A federal judge will hold an emergency hearing Monday morning in Detroit, where the ACLU is asking him to temporarily block the deportations of all Iraqi nationals facing removal in the U.S.

This all started a few months ago, when Iraq agreed to accept Iraqi nationals the U.S. wants to deport. For years it had refused to issue travel documents to those individuals.

Then, earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up 114 Iraqis living in metro Detroit. Another 85 were taken into custody in other states.

The vast majority of them have criminal convictions and have final removal orders, according to immigration officials. 

"The operation in this region was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested," said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Detroit, in a statement issued by her office. “The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases.”

But the ACLU sued, arguing that many of them are Chaldean Christians and members of other Iraqi minority groups.

"Most of them, if not all of them, are in danger of being tortured or killed if sent back,” says Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants Rights project. He says many of those detained have been living peacefully in the U.S. for years.

“The government is rushing them back after them being here for decades,” Gelernt says. “And we're simply saying, let them present their claims of why they're in danger.”

The federal judge has temporarily stopped the deportation of Iraqis from Michigan. But now the ACLU wants that expanded nationwide, where some 1,400 Iraqis have final orders of removal.

“U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith has scheduled an emergency hearing for 10:30 a.m. Monday, June 26, to consider a request to expand his recent 14-day stay on deportations of Detroit-area Iraqi immigrants into a nationwide stay,” Goldsmith’s office announced Sunday.

An immigration spokesman reached Sunday says they are reviewing Goldsmith’s order from last week, and intend to comply with it while “determining the appropriate next steps.” 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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