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Ann Mullen, amullen@aclumich.org, (313) 400-8562

May 6, 2019

Iraqi Nationals Who U.S. Government Tried To Deport Have Since Become Citizens, Earned Green Cards Or Reopened Immigration Cases

DETROIT, MICH. —  The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) supports proposed bi-partisan U.S. Congressional legislation that was introduced late yesterday to protect Iraqi nationals from detention and deportation.  U.S. Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI 9th District) and John R. Mollenaar (R-MI 4th District) are co-sponsors of the bill that would ensure that about 1,000 Iraqis, who have deep ties to the U.S. — living, working and raising families here for decades — will be given two years to have their cases heard in immigration court without facing detention or deportation.  The legislation follows a recent ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Hamama v. Adducci case that leaves Iraqis vulnerable to immediate arrest and deportation, even though their deportation orders were issued years or decades ago and the situation in Iraq is now much more dangerous.

The ACLU and partner organizations filed Hamama v. Adducci in federal court in June 2017, after hundreds of Iraqis, who had old removal orders, were arrested without warning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The civil rights organization successfully argued in U.S. District Court that if deported, Iraqis could face persecution, torture or even death, and were therefore entitled to have their immigration cases reopened and reviewed by an immigration judge.  As a result of an order staying deportations issued by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, more than 300 Iraqis who were arrested and faced imminent deportation were able to ask an immigration court to hear their cases.  Of the cases that have been decided, almost nine out of ten won reopening, meaning that an immigration court will consider current country conditions in Iraq in deciding their cases. While full adjudication of a case can take years and most of the Iraqis are still waiting on final decisions, approximately 40 have won immigration relief, which has included protection under the Convention Against Torture, reinstatement of green cards and U.S. citizenship.

The recent Sixth Circuit ruling reversed the district court’s stay of deportation and put approximately 1,000 Iraqis at risk of being deported before an immigration court can decide whether it is too dangerous for them to be sent to Iraq.

“The fact that so many Iraqis are winning their immigration cases, and in some instances, have even become U.S. citizens, proves that ICE’s rush to toss them out of the country was a monumental mistake that could have cost them their lives,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU senior staff attorney and co-lead counsel in the Hamama v. Adducci case.  “Due process works, but it takes time. This proposed legislation will allow Iraqis the time they need for an immigration court to hear their cases, and a chance to stay in the country they love, have lived for decades and consider home.”

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