US judge orders government to release Iraqis or grant bond hearings

In this file photo, Lindsey Hamama, 11, right, cries as her mother Nahrain speaks to the crowd in Detroit, about her father Usama "Sam" Hamama, who was detained during Immigration and customs enforcement raids of primarily Chaldean immigrants, in which 114 Iraqi nationals in Metro Detroit were detained and are facing deportation. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US judge orders government to release Iraqis or grant bond hearings

WASHINGTON: A US judge ordered the government on Tuesday to either release Iraqi immigrants it arrested last year or grant them bond hearings, in the latest judicial curb on the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten US immigration.
Last year the federal government detained hundreds of Iraqi immigrants who had been ordered deported years ago due to criminal convictions. Iraq until recently had refused to take them back, but struck a deal with the US in March to repatriate its citizens, sparking the immigration sweeps.
The Iraqis and civil rights groups representing them sued the federal government. US District Judge Mark Goldsmith, in Detroit, had previously halted the deportation of the Iraqis, many of whom are Christian, who argued they would face persecution if they were sent back to Iraq.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Goldsmith said that any of the Iraqis held for six months or longer must either be released or granted a bond hearing before an immigration judge within 30 days.
“Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined,” wrote Goldsmith.
The Trump administration has tried to deport the Iraqis as part of its push to increase immigration enforcement and make countries, which have resisted in the past, take back nationals ordered deported from the US.
Since June, immigration enforcement officers have detained approximately 300 Iraqi nationals with final deportation orders, according to information provided to the court by the Iraqis’ lawyers. There are approximately 1,400 Iraqis in the US with final deportation orders.
The US government said in March that Iraq had agreed to repatriate Iraqi nationals ordered deported from the US.
But Goldsmith noted in his order that the US has “no written agreement” with Iraq regarding its cooperation, and that it is therefore unclear whether Iraq had agreed to take back all its nationals, and if so, under what conditions.
Goldsmith said his ruling would apply to Iraqi detainees in similar circumstances nationwide, even if they are not involved in the litigation.
“(Goldsmith) just really reaffirmed the principle that indefinite detention in this country is not acceptable,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which is representing the Iraqis.
The Department of Justice, which is arguing on behalf of the government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


More than 300 older children split at border are reunited

Julie Schwietert-Collazo, left, of Immigrant Families Together, walks with Rosayra Pablo Cruz, center, as she leaves the Cayuga Center with her sons 5-year-old Fernando, second from left, and 15-year-old Jordy, in this July 13, 2018 photo, in New York. (AP)
Updated 12 min 47 sec ago
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More than 300 older children split at border are reunited

  • The government has identified eight US Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week
  • The actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare

SAN DIEGO: The Trump administration said Thursday that it has reunified 364 children ages 5 and older with their families after they were separated at the border, still leaving hundreds to go before a court-imposed deadline a week away.
The Justice Department reaffirmed in a court filing that it has identified 2,551 children who may be covered by US District Judge Dana Sabraw’s order. More than 900 are either “not eligible or not yet known to the eligible,” the vast majority of them undergoing evaluation to verify parentage and ensure the children are safe.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said he was concerned about the high number of children who have not been cleared for reunification.
The administration and the American Civil Liberties Union are due back in court Friday for the fifth time in two weeks as the judge holds tightly to a July 26 deadline for all children to be reunified. He set an earlier deadline of July 10 for dozens of children under 5.
The government has identified eight US Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are taking the lead on helping families that have been released into the US Faith-based groups provide food, clothing, legal aid and often money for a bus or a plane ticket, usually for them to join relatives across the country.
Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, has served dozens of families. The shelter’s director, Ruben Garcia, said “the actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare.”
On Monday, the judge put a temporary hold on deporting parents while the government prepares a response to the ACLU’s request for parents to have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the US after they are reunited with their children.