Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal from the US cannot be deported for at least another two weeks, a federal judge has ruled.
Judge Mark Goldsmith extended a temporary stay blocking their deportation until July 24, according to the judge’s order.
The judge said the court needed additional time to determine whether the court has jurisdiction over the case in the first place, according to court documents.
The group of Iraqi nationals who filed the initial lawsuit along with the ACLU argued that there was “good cause” for extending the stay, because Iraqis in danger of deportation face the same threats they did when the initial stay was granted a few weeks ago: fear of “persecution, torture or even death,” upon return to their country, according to court documents.
Attorneys arguing on behalf of the federal government did not initially agree, but conceded during the court hearing that the court had the power to extend the stay, according to court documents and Lee Gelernt, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project deputy director.
“As the court has recognized, these individuals are potentially in grave danger if sent back to Iraq,” Gelernt told CNN in a statement. “There is simply no reason why the government needs to deport them before they have had an opportunity to present their claims that they will be tortured and possibly killed if returned to Iraq.”
The ACLU along with some Iraqi nationals detained in the Michigan area originally filed a suit on June 15, requesting a stay of removal for any Iraqi detained under the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE office. A few days earlier, ICE arrested more than 100 Iraqi nationals in the Michigan area.
ICE has arrested 199 Iraqi nationals since May; 114 of them from Detroit, according to the agency’s press secretary Gillian Christensen. ICE said most of those arrested have criminal records.
Shortly after the initial stay was granted, the ACLU asked to expand the class-action lawsuit to cover all Iraqi nationals in the US with final orders of removal for deportation. The judge granted their request, expanding the temporary stay on June 26 to cover this group of 1,444 Iraqi nationals on June 26. Eighty-five of them face deportation when the stay is lifted, according to court documents.
While the stay is in place, Iraqi nationals, both those being held in detention centers and those still going about their normal lives but who have final orders of removal, are able to take their case before an immigration court judge and argue why they believe they should be allowed to stay in the U.S.
A group of about 40 Iraqis immigrants living in Michigan who were detained by ICE requested pardon from deportation from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday, a day after the temporary stay was extended.
“The requests for pardon have been received and each one is being reviewed by our office,” Anna Heaton, the governor’s spokeswoman, told CNN.
The ACLU has also requested a list of names from the federal government of all 1,444 Iraqis who fall into the category protected by the temporary stay so they can equip them with legal representation and help them argue their cases in immigration courts. The government had not provided this list to the ACLU as of Saturday,, according to Gelernt, who is arguing the case.
The US attorney’s office has 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 US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan.