Judge to issue written opinion later on Iraqi detainees
After more than four hours of testimony from both sides of the issue, a federal judge in Detroit said Wednesday he will issue a written opinion on a case involving hundreds of Iraqi detainees being held across the county.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith did not reveal exactly when he would issue his ruling on the fate of about 1,400 Iraqi nationals swept up in immigration raids last summer and sent to detention centers in Youngstown, Ohio, and in other locations including Colorado and Arizona.
Arguments were held Wednesday on three key points which included whether the case should be certified as a class-action lawsuit, having the detainees released while they await bond hearings and the federal government’s motion to have the case dismissed altogether.
Margo Schlanger, who is among the attorneys representing the detainees, told Goldsmith the detainees are being denied due process because they are being subjected to prolonged detention and that these cases are “going to last for months or years” which is affecting the detainees’ liberty, health and their families. Schlanger asked Goldsmith to have the federal government determine the prolonged detention is only necessary while the detainees await bond hearings or deportation only if they are danger to the community or if there is a flight risk.
“The (prolonged) detention of these individuals not justified,” Schlanger said Wednesday. “If there is no danger to the community or flight risk, then it is not justified.”
ACLU attorney Mariam Aukerman said the class-action lawsuit would be made up of three classes of detainees with different issues who are seeking due process on complaints of prolonged detention while they await bond hearings and, in some cases, definite deportations.
“These individuals have strong meritorious claims,” said Aukerman.
Department of Justice attorney Joseph Darrow said the process for removing some of the detainees slated for deportation had been moving along in a timely manner and that “(detainees) were about to be put on a plane before they filed” for the injunction that stayed their deportation from the United States.
Remarking on the planned deportations, Goldsmith said “sometimes the government does things for not good reasons” and that perhaps someone thought it would “look good” to put the claimants under detention.
Sarah Wilson, also an attorney for the Department of Justice, argued that detainees’ lawsuits against the government should go forward as a class-action lawsuit because there is no “commonality” among many of the detainees cases.
In late July, Goldsmith temporarily halted deportation of hundreds of Iraqi nationals. The preliminary injunction covering 1,400, including about 200 detained in June, was intended to give them more time to seek legal protection from being deported to Iraq, the homeland many left when they were youngsters.
Family members and supporters have demonstrated against the detentions, demanding that loved ones swept up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement be released. Relatives say detainees would face religious persecution and even death as Christians, a religious minority, by returning to Iraq.
A rally was held Wednesday outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit prior to the hearing.