A federal judge gave a victory to Iraqis nationals who have been fighting deportation while incarcerated when he ruled late Tuesday that they can be granted individual bond hearings — and possibly freed while their legal cases continue.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith cited the Constitution in granting a process for the 274 Iraqi nationals who have languished for months in prison to be given bond hearings, saying they can return to their lives while the legal process unfolds unless the government demonstrates that the individuals pose a danger to the community or are flight risks.
“Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed,” Goldsmith wrote. “The principle is familiar to all in the context of the criminal law, where even a heinous criminal — whether a citizen or not — enjoys the right to seek pre-trial release.
“In the civil context of our case, this principle applies with at least equal force,” Goldsmith continued. “In either context, the principle illustrates our nation’s historic commitment to individual human dignity – a core value that the Constitution protects by preserving liberty through the due process of law.”
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said in a statement Wednesday that the agency was "disturbed" by the ruling.
“ICE is reviewing the decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to determine the path forward," Walls said. "ICE is deeply disturbed by the decision, but will comply with the decision unless and until it is reversed by an appellate court.”
But hailing the decision was Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, a social and human services organization in Sterling Heights.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Manna. “These folks have been detained for six months and there is no clear indication when this legal battle will be finished.”
Also applauding Goldsmith’s ruling was the ALCU of Michigan, which has been leading the legal battle for the Iraqi detainees.
“The government cannot just lock people up and hold them indefinitely without reason. As the judge made clear, everyone who is put behind bars is entitled to their day in court,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan.
Added Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project: “The government has caused Iraqi families immense suffering by detaining their loved ones unnecessarily for months. Today’s court ruling shows that enough is enough. Now, everyone is that much closer to being released and home with their families where they belong.”
The ACLU said in a statement that the ruling “requires release of nearly all the detainees by Feb. 2 unless an immigration judge finds clear and convincing evidence that a particular individual is either a flight risk or a public safety risk.”
“The detainees and their families, working with their immigration attorneys, will now need to request a hearing with the immigration court, where they can present evidence on their work history, family relationships, and community ties,” the ACLU said.
Goldsmith issued a preliminary injunction in July that stopped the deportation of Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal from the U.S. after they were rounded up in June by ICE agents.
The roundup came after a change in federal policy that allowed the U.S. to return Iraqi nationals to their native country.
Most of those who were detained are Christians who fear persecution, torture or even death in Iraq, where they are a religious minority.