The ACLU sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement in June 2017 on behalf of Iraqi residents and their families in the U.S., after ICE agents arrested more than 100 Iraqi nationals without warning — including many who came to the U.S. as children and who’ve lived in the U.S. for decades — in raids throughout Metro Detroit.
In this class-action lawsuit, Hamama v. Adducci, we argued that if returned to Iraq, these people face persecution, torture or death, and that it is illegal to deport the detainees without giving them an opportunity to present their claims to an immigration judge. Nationwide, some 1400 Iraqis with old removal orders are affected by the case. More than 350 of them have been detained during the case.
On July 24, 2017, a federal court granted the ACLU's request for a nationwide preliminary injunction; the court stayed the removal of all Iraqi nationals in the U.S. who had final orders of removal on June 24, 2017 and who have been, or will be, detained by ICE. The injunction gave class members three months to file a motion to reopen in the immigration courts, so that their cases could be decided on an individual basis. The three month period started when the government provided class members with copies of their immigration files and records that are necessary to properly litigate relief in immigration court. The stay of deportation continues while the individual’s immigration case works its way through the immigration court system, including the appeals process.
In November 2017, when ICE continued to detain many class members without bond hearings while they fight their immigration cases, the ACLU filed a second preliminary injunction motion arguing that the Constitution forbids detention without an individualized bond hearing to determine if detention is necessary. On January 2, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith held that the detainees should receive individualized bond hearings, explaining that “our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed.” Most of those bond hearings have now been held, and about half of the detainees have returned home. However, many detainees remain unjustly incarcerated.
The government appealed both the U.S. District Court’s order staying removal to Iraq and the order prohibiting prolonged detention without a bond hearing.
In June 2018, the ACLU of Michigan filed an emergency motion to protect Iraqis detained by ICE from illegal coercion and intimidation. ICE had been threatening our vulnerable clients with criminal prosecution for refusing to say they want to go to Iraq. Judge Goldsmith granted immediate relief to the Iraqi detainees, prohibiting ICE from harassing the long-time U.S. residents into agreeing to be deported.
In August 2018, we asked the U.S. District Court to release the more than 100 Iraqi nationals who remain illegally detained by U.S. immigration authorities, most for more than a year. The ACLU also requested sanctions against ICE for misleading the court, and asked to unseal secret documents that show ICE’s prior statements to the court were false.
In October 2018, Judge Goldsmith ordered the secret documents released. The formerly sealed evidence shows that ICE had been lying, and that the Iraqi detainees are unlikely to be removed from the United States. These falsehoods are the reason the Iraqis remain locked up: the Constitution and federal law prohibit prolonged detention when removal is not significantly likely.
Then victory in November 2018: Judge Goldsmith ordered ICE to release the detained Iraqis within 30 days, and wrote that he will impose sanctions on the Government for "failing to comply with court orders, submitting demonstrably false declarations of Government officials, and otherwise violating its litigation obligations—all of which impels this Court to impose sanctions."
Late December 2018, this victory was followed by a disappointing ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, stating that a lower court was powerless to stop the deportation of Iraqi nationals, even those deported who face persecution, torture or death. The majority also ruled that the district court did not have jurisdiction to grant bond hearings on a class-wide basis. This ruling reversed the order preventing clients' removals and requiring bond hearings.
The ACLU continues to fight to protect its Iraqi clients, many of whom were able to hug their children and loved ones for the first time in 18 months, after being released from unjust detention in December 2018. The latest ruling from the Sixth Circuit does not change the fact that during the past year and a half, hundreds of clients have been able to present their cases before immigration judges, rather than being suddenly deported without a hearing, and to a country where they are in paramount danger.
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, CODE Legal Aid, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and other ACLU cooperating attorneys.
(Hamama v. Adducci; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio and Michael J. Steinberg, and Legal Fellows Juan Caballero and Monica Andrade; additional attorneys include Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinowitz and Anand Balakrishnan of the National ACLU; ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorney Margo Schlanger of U-M Law School, Kimberly Scott, Wendy Richards, and Erika Giroux of Miller Canfield; David Johnson, Linda Goldberg and William Swor; and co-counsel Nadine Yousif and Nora Youkhana of CODE Legal Aid; Susan Reed and Ruby Robinson of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; and Mariko Hirose of the International Refugee Assistance Project.)
Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.