In a major legal victory, a federal judge has halted the deportation of around 1,400 Iraqi nationals who had been arrested by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in June.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted the American Civil Liberties Union a preliminary injunction which would halt all deportations of Iraqi nationals for 90 days. The delay not only gives detainees time to properly appeal their deportation orders, but, given that many Iraqi nationals in the U.S. are from persecuted ethnic and religious groups, the judge’s decision could ultimately spare them their lives.
According to Reuters, Goldsmith wrote that the 90 day reprieve would ensure “that those who might be subjected to grave harm and possible death are not cast out of this country before having their day in court.”
Because the cases were, in the judge’s words, “unexpectedly resurrected by the government” after years of being dormant, Iraqi nationals had trouble getting the documents they needed in order to file appeals. Those who had been detained and held in ICE centers had also been separated from their lawyers and families.
The deportation orders come as a result of a deal President Donald Trump made with Iraq earlier this year. In exchange for keeping Iraq off the administration’s travel ban, the country agreed to start accepting deportees who do not have Iraqi passports or travel documents.
The targeted ICE raids—carried out across Michigan and in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this summer—came as a shock to the Iraqi community. In some cases, the Iraqis arrested had committed their crimes—and served out their punishment—decades ago.
The arrests sparked outrage in Detroit’s Christian Iraqi community, which had come out strongly in favor of Trump last year. Trump had repeatedly vowed to protect Christians in the Middle East.
In addition to the 90 day injunction, Goldsmith also ordered immigration authorities to keep the ACLU up to date with biweekly reports on every Iraqi national they’ve detained.
An attorney who represented more than 20 of the Iraqis arrested by ICE in Michigan last month, Clarence Dass, told USA Today that the additional time is invaluable for his clients.
“For people who have been learning their fate every two weeks, 90 days is a lifetime,” Dass said. “All we are asking is for a chance to show that deportation of these particular individuals is a death sentence, and the judge’s decision today allows us to do that. Once we show those facts and circumstances, I am hopeful we will be able to save their lives.”