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.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.