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ICE Lied to Court to Keep Iraqi Detainees Locked Up, ACLU Says; Asks Court to Release Detainees and Open Secret ICE Documents

August 29, 2018

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the U.S. District Court in Detroit to release over 100 Iraqi nationals who have been illegally detained by U.S. immigration authorities, most for more than a year. The ACLU is also requesting sanctions against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for misleading the court; and to unseal secret documents that show ICE’s prior statements to the court were false.

“It is appalling that ICE wants to lock these people up and throw away the key, and even more appalling that ICE misled the court in order to do so,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney. “ICE’s dishonesty is the reason the detainees are behind bars, rather than home with their families.”

Today’s filings are the latest development in Hamama v. Adducci, a nationwide class action filed in June 2017 on behalf of hundreds of Iraqi nationals, who were arrested throughout the country without warning and threatened with immediate deportation. Many came to the U.S. as children and have live and worked in the U.S. for decades. They now face persecution, torture, or even death in Iraq because of their religion, ethnicity, or the fact that they are Americanized. Approximately 120 Iraqis remain detained.

The ACLU is asking Judge Mark Goldsmith to release the detainees because information contained in the secret evidence shows that they are unlikely to be removed from the United States. The Constitution and federal law prohibit prolonged detention when removal is not significantly likely.

Iraq has long had a policy of refusing to accept deportees who do not want to return. While ICE told the court that Iraq will now quickly and easily accept all Iraqi deportees, the ACLU says ICE’s statements are contradicted by evidence obtained in the case. Because the government is trying to keep the evidence secret under a protective order, details about ICE’s misrepresentations cannot be released until Judge Goldsmith rules on a motion, also filed today, to allow the public to see the secret documents. The court filings are therefore partially redacted.

“The government has fought for fourteen months to hide the truth,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Margo Schlanger, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. “We’ve finally gotten the documents, and it turns out that what the government told the court is untrue. We hope the court will allow us to share the truth with the detainees, their families, and the public, all of whom deserve to know what is really happening in this case.”

In addition to seeking release of the detainees and public access to the secret evidence, the ACLU is also asking Judge Goldsmith to strike from the record in the Hamama case false and misleading information presented by ICE and to order the agency to notify other courts where it has submitted the same false evidence. 

The allegations of ICE misconduct documented in today’s filings follow an admission by ICE last week that it deported one of the detainees to Iraq on August 8 in violation of the Court’s order; what has happened to him is unknown. Last week Judge Goldsmith also ordered ICE to address coercion and mistreatment of detainees in violation of another earlier court order.

In addition, in a separate case in which ACLU attorneys are representing an asylum seeker in Washington DC, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened government officials with contempt sanctions for deporting a mother and daughter after telling the court they would not. “ICE seems to believe it is above the law, and can violate court orders with any consequences,” said Ms. Aukerman. “What is happening in this case is just the latest example of ICE playing fast and loose with the rules.”

Detainees and their families have won repeated legal victories in this case, including:

  • An order stopping immediate deportations of hundreds of Iraqis;
  • An order requiring bond hearings for many of the detainees, with many winning release back to their families and communities;
  • An order prohibiting ICE agents from threatening detainees with prosecution or long prison sentences if they did not agree to immediate deportation to Iraq.

Hamama v. Adducci was filed by attorneys from the ACLU, CODE Legal Aid, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the law firm Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone.

Read Motion to Make Secret Records Public here.

Read the unredacted versions of the court filings here.

Read the secret records released Oct. 2018 here.