Judge weighs order to halt Iraqi deportations

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
Protesters gather Monday across the street from U.S. District Court in downtown Detroit to rally against the deportation of Iraqis.

A federal judge in Detroit has been asked to issue an emergency order to stop the government from coercing Iraqi immigrants into agreeing to be deported.

The judge's order could come later Monday or sometime Tuesday, officials said.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith heard arguments for and against the order during an emergency motion hearing Monday morning. 

ACLU officials said federal agents are threatening detainees with prison if they don't agree to be deported.

During the hearing, the attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice agreed it would be wrong for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security agents to coerce detainees to volunteer to be deported.

"Telling anyone they have to sign a statement declaring they want to return to Iraq or face prosecution would not be appropriate," said Nicole Murley, an attorney for the Department of Justice.

After hearing attorneys for both sides, Goldsmith ordered them to meet and negotiate an agreement. 

"My preference is for you to resolve (the issue)," Goldsmith said. "If it's not possible, I will make the necessary rulings."

The ACLU, which alleges U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement officers illegally force detained Iraqi immigrants to volunteer for deportation, is seeking the order.

Its motion is the latest development a class-action lawsuit the ACLU filed last year to halt federal immigration officials from deporting more than 100 Iraqi nationals rounded up by federal agents in raids last June.

Rebecca Adducci, director of the Detroit District of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is named as the lead defendant.

Usama "Sam" Hamama is the lead plaintiff in the case. Hamama, who came to the United States at age 11 and hasn't lived in Iraq for 40 years, was among the Iraqi nationals detained by agents.

In 1988, he was convicted of a weapons possession charge after flashing an unloaded gun during a road-rage incident. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was ordered deported in 1994. Hamama was released on bond earlier this year after being detained for several months.

As the hearing was held before Goldsmith, a few dozen protesters gathered on Lafayette Boulevard across the street from the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit. They chanted "ICE! ICE! Open you eyes!" and held signs that read "Free the detainees," and "ICE open your eyes, Deportation is homicide."

"We want the U.S. government to stop deporting people back to Iraq," said Flora Marrugi,26, of Bloomfield HIlls, one of the rally's organizers. "At the moment, Iraq is a war zone where ISIS is killing anyone and everyone who believes different than they believe."


Twitter: @CharlesERamirez