Rights group files class action against deportation of 1,400 Iraqis from US

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a nationwide class action lawsuit to protect 1,400 Iraqi nationals arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this month from immediate deportation.

On Saturday, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division filed an “Emergency Order Staying Removal to Protect Nationwide Class of Iraqi Nationals Facing Imminent Removal to Iraq.”

“According to government officials, there are more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal,” the ACLU stated in its amended complaint.

"Although most were ordered removed to Iraq years ago (some for overstaying visas, others based on criminal convictions for which they long ago completed any sentences), the government released them, often under orders of supervision," reads the class action.

The ACLU claims that ICE began arresting and detaining Iraqis “without warning” even though previously convicted persons had been complying with their orders of release.

The ACLU initially challenged the government on June 15, after the arrests of more than 100 Iraqi nationals throughout Detroit, Michigan, both Christians and Muslims, and some who had been in the US for decades.

On June 22, US District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted more than 100 Iraqis an additional 14-day stay under the jurisdiction of Detroit’s ICE, citing that the potential “harm far outweighs” the governments removal orders.

The order allows detainees to stay for an additional two weeks and will give them the opportunity to make their case in front of an immigration judge as to why they should be allowed to remain in the US.

A majority of the Iraqi nationals detained in Michigan who are Chaldean Christians have historically faced discrimination in Iraq and do not even speak Arabic, their defenders argue. The largest Chaldean Christian community in the US resides in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Many Chaldeans faced persecution under the Saddam Hussein regime and after ISIS rose to power in Iraq in 2014.

“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

In exchange for Iraq to be removed from US President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Iraq had agreed to accept any deportees from the US.

The ACLU argues that if Iraqis were forced to return to Iraq, they could potentially face “persecution, torture, or death.”

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