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ACLU sues to stop deportation of Iraqi immigrants from Michigan

Jun 15, 2017

Credit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit to stop the deportation of about 100 Iraqi immigrants.

Immigration enforcement officials arrested the immigrants last weekend in a series of raids in the Detroit area. These officials say everyone taken into custody has a criminal record and was ordered removed from the United States.

But Michael Steinberg of the ACLU says many of those orders are decades old. And the situation in Iraq has changed. Many of the immigrants in custody are Chaldean Christians, a group that now faces persecution in Iraq

"Federal law and international treaty forbids the United States from sending individuals back to countries where they face the danger of persecution, torture or death," Steinberg says. 

The ACLU's lawsuit claims deporting the Iraqi immigrants now would deprive them of their right to due process. The lawsuit reads: 
 

Because the danger to Petitioners in Iraq is based on changed country circumstances, they have not received their core procedural entitlement—they have not had an opportunity to have their claims heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner, that is, with respect to current conditions, not the conditions that existed at the time their removal order was first issued. Removing the petitioners without giving them this opportunity violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

The lawsuit was filed as a class action to cover all of the Iraqi immigrants taken into custody in the Detroit area last weekend. Immigration officials haven't released the names of those taken into custody, but the ACLU lawsuit includes the stories of the seven lead plaintiffs in the case: 

  • Usama Jamil “Sam” Hamama, 54 years old, came to the United States as a refugee when he was four years old. The lawsuit claims his criminal convictions for assault and firearm possession happened 28 years ago and he has no convictions since that time. He was ordered deported in 1994, but was released under an order of supervision and has been complying. The lawsuit claims “Mr. Hamama fears removal to Iraq, especially because his status as a Chaldean makes him a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Jihan Asker, 41 years old, has lived in the United States since she was five years old. She was ordered deported in 1986, but was released under supervision and has been complying, according to the lawsuit. It continues: “Ms. Asker fears removal to Iraq, especially because her status as a Chaldean makes her a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Moayad Jalal Barash, 47 years old, has lived in the United States since 1979. His removal order from the U.S. came nearly 20 years ago. He was released under supervision and has complied ever since. The lawsuit says “While still a teenager, he was convicted and served time for drug charges and for possession of a concealed weapon. Since serving his sentences, he has been involved in the church and the sole breadwinner and source of support for his family. Mr. Barash fears removal to Iraq, especially since his status as a Christian makes him a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Atheer Ali, 40 years old, has lived in the U.S. since around 1992. He is a Christian and has a tattoo of a cross on his shoulder. The lawsuit says he was convicted of breaking and entering in 1996 and has misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession in 2009 and 2014. According to the lawsuit, “Mr. Ali fears removal to Iraq, especially because his visible status as a Christian, he will be a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Habil Nissan, 36 years old, lawfully came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1997. According to the lawsuit, he “plead guilty to misdemeanor destruction of property and two misdemeanor and assault charges in 2005.” He was ordered deported in 2007, but was released under supervision. He has complied with immigration officials since then. The lawsuit claims “he fears removal to Iraq, especially because his status as a Catholic makes him a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Sami Ismael Al-Issawi lives in Michigan. He was convicted of aggravated assault in 1998, served 360 days and has committed no crimes since. A judge ordered him deported in 2013, but he was released with an order of supervision and has been complying since then. The lawsuit claims “Mr. Al-Issawi fears removal to Iraq, especially because his status as a Shiite Muslim makes him a target for violence and persecution.”
  • Ali Al-Dilaimi, 38 years old, who came to the United States as a refugee in 1998. He was convicted of assault 17 years ago, served five months in prison and has committed no crimes since. He was ordered removed from the U.S. in 2004, but was released “under an order of supervision” which he has complied with for 13 years. The lawsuit says “Mr. Al-Dilami fears removal to Iraq, especially because his status as a Shi’i Muslim makes him a target for violence and persecution.”

You can read the full lawsuit here

Michael Steinberg of the ACLU says he's hoping for a speedy decision from a judge to halt the deportation. He worries if a judge doesn't step in, immigration officials could deport the Iraqi immigrants as soon as next week.