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.


Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

Updated 28 min 55 sec ago
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Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

  • The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs
  • Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country"

MANILA: The Philippine government on Monday warned the press against plotting to "destroy" President Rodrigo Duterte's government, as his spokesman accused journalists of spreading fake news.
The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs and raising questions about a large increase in his wealth.
"They are all there doing their thing, trying to destroy this government by spreading false news and planting intrigues against the government," Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo told a news conference.
He released a graphic which he said showed how a video of a hooded man alleging the Duterte family's role in the narcotics trade was shared by one journalist to colleagues employed by other Philippine news outfits.
The news organizations named have all reported extensively on Duterte's crackdown against illegal drugs that has left more than 5,000 suspects dead at the hands of the police in what rights groups have said may be a crime against humanity.
Panelo said the ouster allegations were based on information shared by a foreign intelligence agency which he would not name.
"In other words, what these people are doing is to give succour or assist the enemy, if they are not the enemy themselves," Panelo said.
Last week Duterte publicly lashed out at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which published a report about the rise in the president's net worth.
"In the coming weeks, I will return the favour. So Philippine Investigative, you better stop," Duterte said.
Panelo said Monday the Duterte government was putting these journalists and news outfits on notice but would not pursue legal action against them "for now".
"But if the plot thickens and they perform acts which are already violation(s) of the penal laws, that's a different story," Panelo added.
The comments came weeks after the government twice briefly detained Maria Ressa, chief executive of the online news site Rappler over tax evasion, securities fraud and other charges.
Panelo named Ressa and Rappler, PCIJ, and Vera Files, among others, in the list of news organisations allegedly plotting against Duterte.
He accused Ellen Tordesillas, the Vera Files president, of spreading the video clip alleging Duterte family involvement in the narcotics trade.
Ressa, tweeting about the ouster allegations, called them "ludicrous" and "yet another (presidential) palace ploy to harass journalists".
Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country".
Tordesillas called the supposed ouster plot "downright false", while PCIJ has said its reports were all based on documents issued by Duterte himself in his required annual filings on assets and liabilities.
Duterte in previous years has also lashed out at other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
He threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network's franchise renewal application.