A federal court today ruled that nearly 300 Iraqi nationals who have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have an opportunity to be released. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled that when Iraqis in the case have been detained for more than six months—as already nearly all of them have—they are entitled to go before an immigration judge and present evidence showing they should be released from detention. In June, Judge Goldsmith halted their deportations because of the danger they could face in Iraq, but almost all have languished in detention since then. Today’s ruling requires release of nearly all the detainees by February 2 unless an immigration judge finds clear and convincing evidence that a particular individual is either a flight risk or a public safety risk.   

Read the decision.

The detainees and their families, working with their immigration attorneys, will now need to request a hearing with the immigration court, where they can present evidence on their work history, family relationships, and community ties. The immigration court will then decide on release and bond.

“ICE’s position is that if you try to save your own life by asking the courts to protect you from deportation to a country where you face persecution, torture or death, ICE can lock you up for however long it wants. This decision means that ICE can’t punish Mr. Hamama—or the hundreds of others like him—with jail time for fighting to stay in America with their families.  The government cannot just lock people up and hold them indefinitely without reason. As the judge made clear, everyone who is put behind bars is entitled to their day in court,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan.

“The government has caused Iraqi families immense suffering by detaining their loved ones unnecessarily for months. Today’s court ruling shows that enough is enough. Now, everyone is that much closer to being released and home with their families where they belong,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.