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Timely Ruling Protects Iraqi Nationals in the U.S. from Deportation

airport-2370854_640-300x225Michigan Federal Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled on Monday to temporarily stop the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi immigrants, expanding a ruling that initially applied only to Detroit.

The decision comes as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was preparing to deport over a thousand Iraqi nationals found guilty of crimes in the U.S., some of which happened decades ago. Despite their criminal records, the Iraqi immigrants were allowed to stay in the country, which they had done so for years without incident.

In June, Goldsmith granted temporary restraining orders to more than 100 Iraqi detainees being held by ACE, with the American Civil Liberties Union (representing the plaintiffs) requesting the TRO to cover all the other Iraqi nationals in question.

ICE’s latest efforts to deport this group of immigrants is not a spontaneous event. Iraq recently signed an agreement with US immigration officials to hand over the group’s travel documents for repatriation. The Iraqis, on the other hand, maintain they should at least be given an opportunity to justify their continued stay in the US, claiming they’ve been denied due process.

Explaining his ruling, Goldsmith cited the “grave consequences” the Iraqis would face should they be forcibly returned to their home country. The risks, according to the East Michigan District Judge, ultimately outweigh any rationale for their removal.

Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrant Rights Project, agreed with the decision, saying “The court did the right thing to ensure everyone is protected and has a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

“Iraqi nationals … all across the US are at risk of torture and death if deported back to Iraq,” she added.

At greatest risk is the denomination of Chaldean Catholics, who stand to face the harshest persecution upon their return to Iraq. The Iraqi nationals have since adopted a new approach: to seek asylum given the laws providing refugee status to aliens under threat of torture should they return to their native country, therefore preventing their deportation.

The severity of the situation comes at a time when the Trump administration is aggressively pursuing a travel ban against Muslim-majority countries. In the initial version of the ban, Iraq was one of the countries included in the ban. But a revised version removed Iraq from the list citing the country’s special partnership with the U.S.

In an effort to be removed from the travel ban list, Iraq agreed to enhance “travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal” as per the revised order released in March. This was an unprecedented move from Iraq, which had never before accepted US deportees.

If you are one of the thousands of Americans who could be affected by the Trump travel ban, or have family members in the list of banned countries you would like to bring into the country, talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm to discuss your options. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review and discussion.