A federal judge temporarily blocked the deportation of any Iraqi nationals from the United States Monday, setting a two-week stay on such deportation cases, according to the judge’s order.
The ruling by Judge Mark A. Goldsmith stems from the same judge last week temporarily blocking the deportation of over 100 Iraqis in Michigan by granting a 14-day stay in their case. The ACLU followed up on that by asking the judge on Saturday to protect Iraqi nationals nationwide, not just those under the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE office.
Goldsmith did so Monday, citing potential harm to the Iraqis if they were deported to Iraq, and noting “such harm far outweighs any interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately.”
Of the 1,444 Iraqi nationals currently in the United States, 85 have been detained and faced removal as early as Tuesday, the judge’s order said.
“In its rush to deport as many immigrants as possible, ICE is putting hundreds of individuals who have lived in this country for decades in grave danger of being persecuted or killed,” Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “For many families across the United States, this ruling is like a stay in a death penalty case.”
The ACLU originally filed a petition along with some Iraqi nationals detained in the Michigan area on June 15, requesting a stay of removal for any Iraqi detained under the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE office. The ACLU argued that if Iraqis were forced to return to their home country, they would face “persecution, torture or death.”
Over 100 Iraqi nationals were detained in the Michigan area on June 7, according to court documents. ICE has arrested 199 Iraqi nationals since May; 114 of them from Detroit, according to ICE press secretary Gillian Christensen.
In both the original case’s argument and Monday’s hearing, the US attorney’s office argued that a federal district court did not have jurisdiction over whether Iraqis can be deported. Government lawyers believe it should be handled by an immigration court, according to Gina Balaya, public information officer for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In Monday’s hearing, the US attorney’s office also argued that the “immediate custodian rule” would not allow this district judge to expand the temporary stay to all Iraqi nationals.
The “immediate custodian rule” states that when an immigrant detainee makes petitions for release, it is to be directed at “the person having custody of the person detained.” This often is interpreted as the detainee’s direct supervisor, like an ICE agent from their region.
The US attorney’s office tried to argue that the “immediate custodian rule” applied in this situation, but Judge Goldsmith rejected this argument because “petitioners have demonstrated extraordinary circumstances,” according to court documents.
Goldmisth still did not agree or disagree with the government’s argument that his court does not have jurisdiction over the case. He simply extended the stay for 14 more days from the date of his order, pending the court’s decision on whether or not they do have the authority to rule in the matter. The judge cited the “grave consequences” of deportation that could face Iraqi nationals as his reason for doing so.
CNN had not received a comment from the Detroit ICE office at the time of publication.