DETROIT// A federal judge has temporarily suspended the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals in the US while he determines whether his court is the proper place to consider their fears of physical harm if they are kicked out of the country.
US district judge Mark Goldsmith took a decision from last week, affecting 114 mostly Iraqi Christians rounded up in the Detroit area, and expanded it across the whole of the country for the next 14 days.
"The substantiated allegations made here are that detainees face extraordinarily grave consequences: death, persecution, and torture. ... Such harm far outweighs any interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately," Judge Goldsmith said.
The US government said 1,400 Iraqis are under deportation orders nationwide, though most are not in custody. Some have been under orders for years because they committed crimes in the United States. But legal action over deportations is suddenly heating up because Iraq has agreed to accept them.
The justice department insists a US district court judge does not have jurisdiction in the immigration matter. Judge Goldsmith is not certain so the 14-day freeze will give him more time to decide.
"It's an unusual case for all kinds of reasons," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union said a suspension is necessary so Iraqi nationals can then proceed to immigration hearings and argue that their lives would be in jeopardy if returned to their native country. Without some intervention, the ACLU contends that people could be deported before their case comes to court.
"They need enough time to file those petitions to reopen. It's the government that is hurrying these people toward deportation," Margo Schlanger, attorney for the Iraqi immigrants, told the judge.
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