A federal judge in Michigan has blocked indefinitely the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi illegal immigrants, a decision that allows them to challenge their removal in federal courts.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted late Tuesday a preliminary injunction that lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had previously requested on behalf of a group of the Iraqis, reports CBS News. He said the suspension would give the illegal immigrants time to appeal their orders of removal, which immigration authorities suddenly enforced following a decision by Iraq in March to once again accept repatriation of its citizens.
In a 24-page order, Goldsmith argued that the government’s interest in deporting the Iraqi illegal aliens, many of whom are Kurds or Chaldean Christians, does not outweigh concerns that they could face persecution in their native country.
“Each petitioner faces the risk of torture or death on the basis of residence in America and publicized criminal records. Many will also face persecution as a result of a particular religious affiliation,” he wrote. “While cost and efficiency in administering the immigration system are not illegitimate governmental concerns, such interests pale to the point of evaporation when weighed against the potential lethal harm petitioners may suffer.”
The injunction comes two weeks after Goldsmith found he had the authority to suspend deportations of the Iraqi nationals. In that ruling, the judge said many of the Iraqis never challenged their removal because doing so would have been a “purely academic exercise” given Iraq’s previous stance on accepting repatriated citizens. (RELATED: Federal Judge Rules He Can Block Deportation Of Iraqi Illegal Immigrants)
There are 1,444 Iraqi nationals who have final deportation orders currently living in the U.S., reports Reuters. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained about 200 of them, mostly in the Detroit metro area, during a targeted operation in June. All of those arrested had previous criminal convictions, many for serious crimes ranging from homicide to weapons and drug charges, according to ICE officials.
The ACLU sued on behalf of the detainees on June 15, arguing they could face torture or death because they were members of groups that had historically faced persecution in Iraq. Government lawyers countered that the Iraqis will not be deported to areas of the country where they are likely to face hostility.
“This court and petitioners rely primarily on conditions in ISIS-controlled territory to establish harm, but no alien would be removed to that part of Iraq,” Department of Justice lawyer William Silvis said in a court filing last week, according to CBS News.
Goldsmith has sided with the ACLU in multiple rulings following the initial challenge. Under Monday’s order, immigration authorities must provide bi-weekly reports to the ACLU about each Iraqi in ICE custody.
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