DETROIT – A judge has granted the release of Iraqi nationals detained at a Michigan jail by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith issued the ruling on Tuesday afternoon. The detainees must be released within 30 days.
“The law is clear that the Federal Government cannot indefinitely detain foreign nationals while it seeks to repatriate them, when there is no significant likelihood of repatriation in the reasonably foreseeable future,” wrote Goldsmith in a 59-page opinion.
Goldsmith also wrote that he will impose sanctions on the U.S. 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.”
Goldsmith ordered the release of any detainee that had spent at least six months in jail, and the release of any detainee who will have reached six months in jail. The government has the right to file a motion to keep any specific detainee in jail.
“Today’s decision is about accountability,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Miriam Aukerman. “ICE thought it could get away with lying to a federal judge. ICE thought it could get away with using indefinite detention to coerce Iraqis to accept deportation despite the dangers they face in Iraq. Today, Judge Goldsmith made it clear that ICE is not above the law.”
“We are delighted that families who have been separated for so long will finally be reunited,” said Kim Scott, an attorney at Miller Canfield who also represents the detainees. “As a result of today’s order, many of those who were unjustly detained will be home with their families for the holidays.”
Nearly 130 of about 300 detainees jailed during immigration sweeps conducted last year were still in jail as of June.
The detainees had been ordered deported years ago but allowed to remain in the U.S. under ICE supervision because of dangers they could face, ICE said. Many of the detainees are Christian or members of other minority groups and would likely be persecuted upon their return to Iraq.
The sweeps began after the Iraqi government agreed in March 2017 to begin receiving immigrants who’d been ordered to be removed from the U.S.