Judge again halts deportation of Iraqi nationals

July 25, 2017
AP Photo/Russell Contreras
Demonstrators rally in support of Iraqi refugee Kadhim Al-bumohammed outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Albuquerque on Thursday, July 13, 2017. Al-bumohammed opted to skip his scheduled federal immigration hearing Thursday where he was expected to be detained, and instead said he is seeking sanctuary at an Albuquerque church.

A federal judge in Detroit has once again temporarily halted the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including four who were arrested in Georgia last month. 

In his 35-page ruling issued late Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, nominated by President Barack Obama, pushed back against the Trump administration’s arguments that he doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case and that such matters should instead be handled in federal immigration courts. Civil and immigrant rights groups are suing to block the deportations, arguing the Iraqis – many are Christians and Kurds – would “face grave danger of persecution, torture and death” if they are sent back to their homeland. 

“The government’s view is inconsistent with the Constitution’s command that the writ of habeas corpus — the fundamental guarantor of liberty — must not be suspended, except in the rare case of foreign invasion or domestic rebellion,” Goldsmith wrote in his order. 

“Without warning, over 1,400 Iraqi nationals discovered that their removal orders — many of which had lain dormant for several years — were now to be immediately enforced, following an agreement reached between the United States and Iraq to facilitate removal. This abrupt change triggered a feverish search for legal assistance to assert rights against the removal of persons confronting the grisly fate petitioners face if deported to Iraq.” 

RELATED: Iraqis arrested by ICE in Georgia in limbo amid court battle

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman said her agency was reviewing the decision, declining to comment further. But Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan objected to the judge’s last stay in the case, saying it did not “take into account the robust and already-existing procedural process to address petitioners’ claims as well as the clear public safety threat posed by these aliens -- the vast majority of whom are convicted criminals.” 

Goldsmith added that the Iraqis’ legal defense has been “significantly impeded” by the government’s decision to transfer many of them to detention centers across the country, separating them from their attorneys and families. The four Iraqis arrested in Georgia have been moved to a detention center in Florence, Arizona. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox issued a statement about their transfer, saying: “ICE routinely transfers detainees to other detention facilities based on available resources and the needs of the agency.” 

Goldsmith has set the next hearing in the case for Aug. 31.