Judge: Feds must disclose locations of Iraqi detainees

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Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News
(Photo: Wikipedia.com)
A judge on Thursday ordered federal immigration officials to provide the names, locations and other information about detained Iraqi nationals to attorneys working to stop them from getting deported to a land where they might face torture or death.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s order came at a hearing as a temporary stay is set to expire July 24 for 1,400 Iraqi nationals across the country facing deportation. They include 114 who were arrested last month in Metro Detroit.

Attorneys, including those from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, have been asking federal officials for information about the detainees such as their transfer history, criminal history and whether they have an attorney and family contacts. It is part of their effort to certify a class-action suit and file a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would be less temporary than the current order.

“It would give Iraqi nationals (who are detained) the opportunity to prove to an immigration court judge they are in great danger of persecution, torture or death if they are sent back to Iraq,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan.

Many arrested Iraqi nationals are Chaldeans and were part of a federal roundup that was one of the largest in years. Many came to the United States as refugees, committed crimes and served prison time, but have since gone on to work and raise families.

Deporting them would be a violation of human rights because of the atrocities committed against Christians in Iraq, attorneys and other activists say.

Margo Schlanger, an attorney representing the Iraqis, argued during the hearing that many of the petitioning class might be eligible for protection under the Convention against Torture, a United Nations treaty that does not allow people to be returned to a place where they might be subject to torture, unless conditions improve.

“The current rush to get them deported is thwarting … their due process rights,” Schlanger said.

But William Silvis, assistant director of the Office of Immigration Litigation in the U.S. Department of Justice, countered that detainees had plenty of time to seek protection before they were arrested.

“This is really about a second bite of the apple, and whether people should have acted sooner,” Silvis said.

But Goldsmith told federal officials to provide names, current detention locations, alien numbers and dates of birth by Friday to attorneys working on behalf of the Iraqi nationals. He also ordered federal officials to turn over by next Friday other information such as the location history of those detained since March 6, and information on Iraqi nationals who have not been detained.

Goldsmith gave attorneys working on behalf of the Iraqis until Monday to file motions, and the government until Thursday to respond. Goldsmith is expected to issue an opinion on the whether to grant a temporary injunction on July 24.

Afterward, Acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan said in a statement that the federal agency is reviewing its next steps and blasted the decision:

“I am disappointed that the court’s decision fails to take into account the robust and already-existing procedural process to address Petitioners’ claims as well as the clear public safety threat posed by these aliens — the vast majority of whom are convicted criminals,” Homan said.

“The criminal history of these aliens includes convictions for homicide, rape, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, sex assault and many other types of offenses. The dedicated men and women of ICE will continue to do our sworn duty to enforce our immigration laws and protect the safety and security of Americans.”

The move comes two days after Goldsmith ruled the federal courts have jurisdiction to delay the deportations of the Iraqi nationals.