Detroit — An Iraqi detainee fighting deportation is the first to be granted bond at an immigration hearing Tuesday his attorney said.
Mukhlis Murad, 59, appeared by video from Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek before an immigration judge Tuesday in Detroit. Bond was set at $3,000.
The bond follows U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s Jan. 2 ruling that Iraqi nationals should be granted individual bond hearings and possibly freed while a judge determines if the individuals pose a danger or are flight risks.
The detainees were swept up in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement last summer after the Trump administration announced a new policy negotiated between the U.S. and Iraq that allowed ICE to start deportations to Iraq for the first time in seven years.
Of the 1,400 held in those sweeps, there are close to 300 who remain in custody.
Murad’s attorney Edward Bajoka said the family is grateful to have him back after six months in detention in Battle Creek and are hoping to get him released Wednesday.
Murad was convicted of cocaine possession in 1983, for which he served two years in federal prison. Bajoka said Murad was in final order removable status, meaning he had been ordered deported decades ago but ICE had never acted on the order.
Since serving his time, Bajoka said Murad has been living in Sterling Heights as a model citizen.
“He has three U.S.-born citizen children, two grandchildren, living through Christian faith and lived his life without another crime since,” said Bajoka.
In 1997, Murad was an attendant at a liquor store in Detroit when he was shot in the head during a robbery. He was in a coma and as a result, suffered mental health and mobility issues. Bajoka said he normally walks with a cane, but because canes are prohibited in jail, he has been using a wheelchair since being detained in July.
“He wasn’t picked up during the raids in June, he got a letter from ICE saying they needed him to come in and report. Knowing he could be placed in custody without warning, he reported anyway ... that’s the kind of person he is,” said Bajoka. “What interest ICE has in detaining and deporting a 59-year-old disabled grandfather is beyond me.”
Most of the detainees are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in June and was granted a preliminary injunction by Goldsmith the following month that halted detainee deportation until each had their own hearing in court.
The government appealed. Immigration officials have said that those targeted in the raids committed crimes since their time in the United States and have forfeited their right to remain in the country.
On Dec. 19, the ACLU filed a motion arguing that the Iraqis were unjustly held.
Bonsitu Kitaba, staff attorney with the ACLU, said while they are excited about the bond there are still details to iron out with Goldsmith on how the bond process will work for other detainees.
“Murad’s attorney filed the bond motion long before Judge Goldsmith’s ruling on Jan. 2, and it just happen to come up that his hearing was Tuesday and we’re happy that he was eligible and that his immigration judge took into consideration Judge Goldsmith’s ruling,” said Kitaba.
A status conference is scheduled for Jan. 11 to hammer out the details of how the bond process will work. Kitaba says the government has to either release the detainees, give them bonds in individual hearings, or object their release or bond by Feb. 2, but it could possibly come earlier.
ACLU officials said eight other bond hearings are scheduled this week and more are scheduled through Jan. 30 at various detention centers.
Families of the detainees and attorneys say they fear the detainees could be persecuted in Iraq because of their Christian faith .
“Very happy about the bond results ... it would be very dangerous for his ethnic minority group,” Bajoka said. “He is a target for kidnapping, possible torture and death.”
“This was a nightmare for his family, being without their father for six months, knowing his health condition. It’s just been hell,” he said. “They’re glad to have him back and even though the battle is not over, he can fight it while taking care of his health from home.”
His family could not immediately be reached.
Ashourina Slewo said she’s hopeful her father, Warda Slewo, will come home on bond after he was picked up on June 11 at his home in Madison Heights. Slewo, a U.S. Army veteran, served time in jail and probation for criminal sexual conduct.
“I’m hopeful, but apprehensive,”she said. “I’m not sure how the amount of bond is being determined and so I’m worried that my father will receive bond, but I won’t be able to pay for it.
“Regardless, I’m hopeful. I’ve spent a lot of time being angry and cynical, but this bond hearing today, it lifts my spirits in a way I didn’t think was possible.”