The ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit today to immediately stop federal immigration officials from deporting more than 100 Iraqi nationals rounded up in raids by federal agents last weekend, arguing that it is illegal to deport the detainees without giving them an opportunity to prove that they could face torture and even death if returned to Iraq.
“Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director for the ACLU of Michigan. “We are hoping that the courts will recognize the extreme danger that deportation to Iraq would pose for these individuals. Our immigration policy shouldn’t amount to a death sentence for anyone.”
The ACLU filed the complaint against Immigration and Customs Enforcement after ICE agents arrested more than 100 Iraqis—including many who’ve been in the US for decades—in raids throughout metropolitan Detroit last weekend. Although many of the detainees were picked up for minor offenses in years past, the vast majority have been fully compliant with their conditions of supervision and have had no further run-ins with the law.
Most of the 114 people arrested in Michigan are Chaldean Christians, however, Shiite Muslims and Christian converts are also among the detained, all of whom fear they will face violent retribution because of their identities. Immigration agents during raids in other states also arrested dozens of Kurdish and Yezidi Iraqis. Furthermore, there is also concern that, because all of the detainees have lived in the United States, they will be viewed as Americans rather than as Iraqis.
Most of the Iraqis are being held at a detention facility in Youngstown, Ohio, although some were taken to facilities in St. Clair and Calhoun counties in Michigan. There have been reports that the government could deport them as soon as Friday.
The ACLU is requesting a hearing on Friday for the detainees in the Eastern District of US District Court.
Among those arrested is 38-year-old Ali Al-Dilami, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and a Shiite Muslim who came to the US in 1998 as a 19-year-old refugee. Though he ran afoul of the law 17 years ago, Al-Dilami has remained a model citizen since and currently resides in Ohio with his wife and two children. ICE released him to the community under an order of supervision, with which he has fully complied.
Nevertheless, with no warning, ICE agents arrested him at his home on June 11. Al-Dilami, who has had three mild heart attacks in the past, according to his family, suffered a seizure when he was arrested and is now paralyzed on the left side of his body. After being stabilized, Al-Dilami was transferred to the Youngstown detention center. He fears that, if returned, he will face oppression and reprisals because of the arbitrary and indiscriminate targeting of Shiite Muslims by ISIS.
Also detained was plaintiff Jihan Asker, 41, a Chaldean mother of three children who has spent much of her life near Warren, Mich., since arriving to the US at age 5. Since being arrested on a non-violent misdemeanor charge 14 years ago, Asker has been a model citizen, complying fully with her order of supervision and encountering no other legal troubles. As a result of a petition by her daughter—a US citizen same as her other two children—Asker also is eligible to seek lawful permanent residency in the US.
However, on June 11, she too was arrested then taken to the Calhoun County detention center. Asker is especially fearful of being returned to Iraq because she worries her status as a Christian makes her a target for violence and persecution.
“Yet despite the clear danger that many of these individuals face in Iraq, ICE is attempting to deport them based on outstanding removal orders that do not take account of intervening changed circumstances which should entitle them to protection,” the complaint asserts. “…Petitioners, Christian and Muslim alike, cannot be removed to Iraq without being afforded a process to determine whether, based on current conditions and circumstances, the danger they would face entitles them to protection from removal.”
The arrests come in the wake of a recent deal between Iraq and the US that removes Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens could be prohibited from coming to the US under an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump. In exchange for removal from that list, Iraq has agreed to accept Iraqi nationals sent back to the country by US immigration officials, a sudden reversal of a long-standing policy against repatriation.
The negotiations are part of White House efforts to convince courts to permit the President to impose his controversial Muslim ban, which was ruled illegal by federal courts after the ACLU sued to challenge the Executive Order.
The ACLU, the Arab American Civil Rights League and others have also sued to obtain documents related to the ban, most significantly a memo drafted by a commission established by Trump campaign advisor Rudolph Giuliani to find a legal basis for the Muslim ban.
The raids also follow a series of stepped-up ICE raids that have targeted many Latinos in the US, with agents arresting residents at courthouses, their workplaces and other locations.
In addition to lawyers from the ACLU of Michigan and the National ACLU, the case is being litigated by the law firm of Miller Canfield, Michigan Law Professor Margo Schlanger, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and other ACLU cooperating attorneys.