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U.S. Court of Appeals for Sixth Circuit Issues Ruling in Iraqi Deportation Case

DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan is disappointed in today’s 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that a lower court was powerless to stop the deportation of Iraqi nationals during the summer of 2017, even when those deported face persecution, torture or death.  The majority also ruled that the district court did not have jurisdiction to grant bond hearings, which resulted in the release of hundreds of detainees in January and February 2018, on a class-wide basis.

Today’s ruling is the latest development in Hamama v. Adducci, a nationwide class action filed in June 2017 on behalf of hundreds of Iraqis, who were arrested throughout the country without warning and threatened with immediate deportation though many came here as children and have lived and worked in the U.S. for decades.

“Though we are disappointed that the majority failed to recognize the critical role courts play in protecting people who could be killed if deported, today’s decision does not change the fact that over the past year and a half, hundreds of Iraqis have been able to present their cases before immigration judges, rather than being suddenly deported without a hearing to a county where they are in incredible danger,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney.

Today’s Court of Appeals’ ruling relates to the government’s appeals of U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith’s July 2017 order pausing deportations so that the Iraqis could access the immigration court system, and his January 2018 order granting bond hearings to many of the detained Iraqis.  Judge Goldsmith’s recent November 20 order, which sanctioned ICE for lying to the court to keep Iraqis locked up, was not part of the appeal. That recent order requires Iraqis who remain detained to be either released or removed by today, December 20. Over the course of the past week, most of the remaining detainees have been released.

“We are reviewing the decision and will continue fighting to protect our clients, many of whom were able to hug their children and families for the first time in a year and a half, after being released earlier this week,” said Ms. Aukerman.

Judge Helene White, wrote in dissent, “Petitioners presented the district court with evidence that because they were likely to be killed or tortured if deported, their impending removal would be in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and that without a stay they would be deported before they could seek relief under these acts. The government did not contest this evidence, and the majority does not find fault with the district court’s findings that without a stay, deportations would commence immediately, with death, torture, and persecution probably resulting. Instead, the majority faults Petitioners for failing to file motions to reopen earlier. Yet there are good reasons for Petitioners’ failure to do so. The government was unable to deport Petitioners to Iraq until 2017 when a diplomatic agreement resulted in the resumption of removals. Petitioners were living for years (or decades) under removal orders but with no actual prospect of being deported.”

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 & Stone

Read today’s ruling here.

Follow the case and read background here.