Iraqi nationals to be released

Judge Mark Goldsmith has given the government 30 days to release detainees

Nearly a month after hearing arguments from the Hamama litigation team, Judge Mark Goldsmith has issued an order for the release of Iraqi nationals that continue to be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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The ruling was issued Tuesday, November 20. In a 59-page opinion, Judge Goldsmith wrote that “the law is clear that the Federal Government cannot indefinitely detain foreign nationals while it seeks to repatriate them, when there is no significant likelihood of repatriation in the reasonably foreseeable future.”

Iraqi nationals detained for six months or more must be released. The government, ordered Judge Goldsmith, must do so within 30 days of the order. These detainees were part of a larger group of Iraqi nationals that had been detained by ICE in a sweep in June of 2017.

In his order, Judge Goldsmith states that the detainees’ only crime is “being caught between the United States and Iraq’s diplomatic tug-o-war over repatriation,” and that public interest “overwhelmingly favors freedom over mass detention in these circumstances.”

In addition to the release of these detainees, Judge Goldsmith will also be imposing sanctions on the government for their failure to comply with court orders, submitting “false declarations of government officials, and otherwise violating its litigation obligations—all of which impels this Court to impose sanctions.”

A huge victory for the community, more than 100 detainees will be returning home to their families before Christmas.

For Candice Salman, this day is what she has been waiting for since her brother, David Hana, was picked up from her family’s home on June 11, 2017. Nearly a year and a half later, her brother will finally be able to come home.

Recalling the day several ICE agents showed up at her family’s front door, Salman thinks of the horror that ran through her family. “It was horrible,” she said. “The look of horror on my parents’ faces is something I can’t erase.”

Being without her brother has been difficult, she says. Not seeing him or knowing how he is doing, has been worse. “We are scared for his safety, we didn’t know what would happen to him,” Salman explained.

While this is far from the end for Hana and the other Iraqi nationals, it is a step in the right direction as they continue to fight to stay in the United States. None of this would have been possible without the tireless work of the Hamama litigation team, says Salman.

“We are eternally grateful for our lawyer Edward Bajoka, CODE Legal Aid, Nadine Kalasho, Nora Youkhana, and the ACLU of Michigan,” said Salman. “I am beyond happy. We can’t wait for our family to finally be complete.”

While the detainees will be missing Thanksgiving, they will be home in time to celebrate Christmas with their families.

"We don’t lock people up and throw away the key for no reason. They've already lost 2017, but we're glad they'll be starting 2019 with their families,” Miriam Aukerman told the Detroit News. Aukerman is the ACLU attorney on the case. “What the judge said it’s a decision about accountability and you can’t lie to a federal judge and get away with it. They were unjustly arrested and taken into custody for removal, not because of anything they did but the changes in administration."

This ruling, however, does not signify the end. These Iraqi nationals will be released to fight their immigration cases from home.

The Chaldean Community Foundation worked diligently with Congressmans Sander Levin and John Moolenaar as well as the Iraqi consulate to advocate for the hundreds of community members who were detained and facing deportation.

This ruling from Judge Goldsmith means the government has to release all the detainees within 30 days of the order. The order will allow these Iraqi nationals to come home and fight their immigration cases from the comfort of their homes while getting back to their normal routines.