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Judge orders federal government to release Iraqi detainees

people protesting the detainment of iraqi nationals in Detroit
Michigan Radio

In a strongly worded opinion, a U.S. District Judge has ordered the federal government to release Iraqi nationals it has been holding in jails after immigration raids last year.

Here's an excerpt of the opinion:

The law is clear that the Federal Government cannot indefinitely detain foreign nationals while it seeks to repatriate them, when there is no significant likelihood of repatriation in the reasonably foreseeable future. This principle emanates from our Constitution’s core value of rejecting arbitrary restraints on individual liberty. The issue the Court now resolves is whether there is such a likelihood of repatriation for scores of Iraqi nationals whom the Government has detained for an extended period—many for well over a year—while it engages in a diplomatic dialogue with Iraq that has yet to produce any clear agreement on repatriation. In fact, the weight of the evidence actually uncovered during discovery shows that Iraq will not take back individuals who will not voluntarily agree to return. This means that the Iraqi detainees could remain locked up indefinitely—many in local jails—whether their challenges to their orders of removal are exhausted or on-going. More evidence confirming Iraq’s refusal to repatriate might well exist, but the Government has acted ignobly in this case, by failing to comply with court orders, submitting demonstrably false declarations of Government officials, and otherwise violating its litigation obligations—all of which impels this Court to impose sanctions.

Many of the roughly 120 Iraqis who were detained last year are Chaldean Christians who live in Michigan.  U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith says government attorneys withheld evidence that Iraq wouldn't take them back and violated court orders to prolong the discovery process. 

Attorney Kimberly Scott of Miller Canfield worked on the case to free the detainees.

"The unnecessary suffering that's happened to the individuals in this community is horrifying," she says.

Within 30 days, the government must release those it has been holding for more than six months, unless there's a strong special justification, which usually means the safety of the community. Many of the detainees didn't commit crimes, other than staying in the U.S. after losing asylum appeals.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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