Trump officials plan appeal of Iraqi deportation halt

Mark Hicks The Detroit News

The Trump administration’s immigration officials are appealing a Detroit federal judge’s ruling that temporarily halted the deportation of many Iraqi nationals.

In July, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction covering more than 1,400 Iraqis, including about 200 arrested and detained in June.

The decision was intended to give them more time to seek legal protection from being deported to Iraq, the homeland many left when they were youngsters. More than half of those detained were from Metro Detroit.

In an unusual move, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials blasted the judge for his ruling. Attorneys representing the agency’s director as well as other authorities filed a motion Thursday in U.S. District in Detroit seeking to appeal the ruling, but did not indicate on what specific legal grounds.

“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 July 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 American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which led the effort to get the preliminary injunction, is denouncing the move the group says came a day before the deadline.

“The judge’s order was clear – before someone is deported to Iraq to face persecution, torture or death, they should have a chance to have their day in immigration court. By appealing, the administration is trying to silence our community members and prevent them from telling a judge about the horrors they could face in Iraq,” the ACLU’s senior staff attorney Miriam Aukerman said in a statement.

“And by appealing at the last possible minute, this administration has prolonged the agony for Iraqi families, whose loved ones have already been locked up for three months while they fight to stay in the America that is their home. This is a fight over life and death, yet the government seems determined to circumvent justice through delays, abuse, and coercion.”

ICE representatives and attorneys for those named in court filings did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

For years, Iraq had not accepted deportees from the United States without travel documents in an effort to secure its border against terrorists from groups such as the Islamic State. Many Iraqis came to the United States when they were young and do not have documents to prove they were born in their native land.

But a new policy was recently negotiated between the U.S. and Iraq, allowing ICE to start deportations to Iraq for the first time in seven years.

During the second week of June, ICE arrested 199 Iraqi nationals across the country with final orders of deportation, including 114 people living in Metro Detroit. Subsequent arrests have since occurred, leading to a total of 254 Iraqi nationals currently in custody, according to ICE officials in Detroit.

Many of those detained are Chaldeans who fear persecution, torture and death if forced to return to their native country, where Christians are a minority.

Meanwhile, about 1,200 Iraqi nationals across the country are under final orders of deportation, according to ICE.

More than two dozen attorneys and organizations were assembled within 48 hours of the arrests in June, and many were working pro bono for those facing removal. Several rallies were also held to protest.

Meanwhile, nine people are being considered by the Michigan Parole Board for possible pardon of their crimes, and 30 recently learned their cases would be reopened in Detroit immigration court, officials said.