Attorneys argued the mostly Chaldean Christians, who were picked up during a series of raids in Detroit, would face death or persecution if they returned to Iraq
A federal district judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi Christians who attorneys said would face death or persecution if returned to their birth country.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) arrested 114 Iraqis, mostly Chaldean Christians, during a series of raids this month in and around Detroit.
Those arrested had been subject to deportation orders and had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. But attorneys challenged whether it was fair to return this population to Iraq, where Islamic State and other jihadist groups have targeted Chaldeans and other Christian groups.
In a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the local Ice field office, attorneys said most of the 114 people had lived in the US for decades and now face imminent removal to Iraq, and the very real probability of persecution, torture or death.
Judge Mark Goldsmith said in an order on Thursday that those arrested would not be deported for at least two weeks. At the end of that period, he would make a new ruling.
The judges order applies to all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit Ice field office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by Ice, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations.
Most of the people arrested were ordered removed several years ago because of criminal convictions or for overstaying their visas, but the government had released them under orders of supervision that required them to check-in regularly with Ice. They had not been prioritized for deportation under past presidential administrations.
The lawsuit described defendants who had built lives in the US, including Atheer Ali, 40, who entered the US as a child.