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Iraqi deportees score a win; judge says fed courts have jurisdiction to block deportations

Jul 11, 2017

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith says, in spite of federal law that restricts judicial review of deportation proceedings, his court does have jurisdiction to block the deportation of some 1,400 Iraqis.

After cutting a deal with Iraq’s government earlier this year, the Trump administration moved quickly to deport non-citizen Iraqi-Americans with criminal records and standing removal orders. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed a removal flight in April. 

Then, last month, ICE rounded up 114 Iraqis in metro Detroit, and another 85 in other states. 

That prompted the ACLU to file a lawsuit seeking to block the deportations. The civil liberties group says the Iraqis face persecution or death if they're returned, and that because conditions in Iraq have deteriorated dramatically since they were ordered deported, their right to due process has been denied them.

In his opinion, Judge Goldsmith cited the changes in Iraq -- particularly since 2014, when ISIS began carrying out large-scale killings. "Religious minorities were particularly vulnerable to these atrocities, with Christians being given the horrific choice to 'pay a protection tax, convert to Islam, or be killed,'" Goldsmith wrote. It's believed that the vast majority of the 1,400 Iraqis with final removal orders in the U.S. are Chaldean Christians. Others are members of other religious and ethnic minorities.

"The Court concludes that it has jurisdiction to grant Petitioners the limited relief they request, i.e., an injunction against enforcement of the orders of removal so that their habeas rights can be meaningfully asserted and addressed before other courts," Goldsmith wrote, adding that the next steps in the case have yet to be determined.  

He set a Thursday status conference to discuss those steps.