ICE: Iraqi injunction ignores ‘public safety threat’

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Two days after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction for detained Iraqis facing deportation to their native country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement blasted the decision.

“Once again, this court has failed to acknowledge the generous procedures and safeguards afforded to aliens in the immigration removal process, under which all of these aliens were lawfully ordered removed from the United States,” ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.

“It’s even more concerning that the court’s decision overlooks the clear public safety threat posed by these aliens — the vast majority of whom are convicted criminals,” the statement continued. “The criminal history of these aliens includes convictions for homicide, rape, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, sex assault and many other types of offenses.

“The dedicated men and women of ICE will continue to do our sworn duty to enforce our immigration laws and protect the safety and security of Americans.”

ICE released the statement in response to U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s decision Monday to issue the preliminary injunction blocking the detained Iraqis’ removal from the U.S.

The ruling means that more than 200 Iraqi nationals arrested last month across the country will have more time to seek legal protection from being sent back to Iraq. More than half of those detained were from Metro Detroit.

Advocates say many of the detained Iraqis are Christian and face persecution, torture and possibly death if forced to return to their native country, where Christians are a minority.

Nationwide, the injunction covers 1,400 Iraqi nationals who have final orders of removal, putting them at risk of being sent back to Iraq.

For years, the Iraqi government had not accepted repatriated Iraqis living in other countries without travel documents. But an agreement negotiated this year between the U.S. and Iraq has since allowed for it.

The arrests of the Iraqis last month, which took many families by surprise, spawned an anguished outcry. Goldsmith issued a temporary stay that was set to expire Monday night.

Advocates for the Iraqis, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, argued that more time was needed since many of the detainees were being held hundreds of miles from their homes.

They also argued that some of the Iraqis facing deportation had only a history of minor crimes. Examples included one person who tried to cash a bad check, and another person who had overstayed an entry visa after coming to the U.S. with the intent of getting married.

In his written opinion, Goldsmith said the government “ignores the compelling confluence of extraordinary circumstances.”

“Without warning, over 1,400 Iraqi nationals discovered that their removal orders — many of which had lain dormant for several years — were now to be immediately enforced, following an agreement reached between the United States and Iraq to facilitate removal,” Goldsmith wrote. “This abrupt change triggered a feverish search for legal assistance to assert rights against the removal of persons confronting the grisly fate petitioners face if deported to Iraq.

“That legal effort has, in turn, been significantly impeded by the Government’s successive transfers of many detainees across the country, separating them from their lawyers and the families and communities who can assist in those legal efforts.”

Goldsmith also wrote that the federal district court is “armed with jurisdiction to act as a first responder to protect the writ of habeas corpus and the allied right to due process, by allowing an orderly filing for relief with the immigration courts before deportation, thereby assuring that those who might be subjected to grave harm and possible death are not cast out of this country before having their day in court.”