Judge Goldsmith’s order to grant bond hearings is a
major step forward for detained Iraqi nationals
By Ashourina Slewo
Following nearly seven months of chaos and uncertainty, Iraqi nationals detained by ICE throughout the nation breathed a sigh of relief as Judge Mark Goldsmith issued an order on Tuesday, January 2, that stated those detained for six months or more, had the right to a bond hearing.
“Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed,” U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote in his 46-page order, stressing the right to a bond hearing is a fundamental principle in the nation’s justice system.
Following a conference on January 11, Goldsmith issued an additional order regarding the bond hearings on January 18 stating that the government would be required to conduct at least 65 of the bond hearings by February 2. The government would then have until February 16 to conduct the remainder of bond hearings.
The January 18 order established the process in which these bond hearings would be conducted for detainees falling under either the jurisdiction of the Detroit or Cleveland Immigration court. For all other jurisdictions, the date in which the government was required to conduct bond hearings remained February 2.
With the issuing of Goldsmith’s order, bond hearings began as early as the next day.
The community was buzzing with joy.
Many families could not wait to share the news of their loved ones as the hearings began with a positive tone.
West Bloomfield resident, Alex Ketty, was a part of the first group of detainees to have their bond hearings. Ketty had been detained in Youngstown, Ohio since he was picked up from his home on June 11, 2017.
Released on his own recognizance, Ketty is an anomaly.
According to attorney Kim Grzic, it was quite shocking that more detainees did not get released on their own recognizance. While personal bonds are not commonplace in immigration court, Grzic believes that this situation was far from what these judges typically see in their courts.
“I’m not surprised [that detainees were released on their own recognizance] because many of those who were picked up in the sweeps were people who had orders from years ago and were able to live in the community and have clear ties to the United States and had not committed a crime since their initial release after an order of deportation was entered,” explained Grzic. “I am surprised that more were not released on their own recognizance.”
While Grzic was not surprised by the judges’ decisions, others failed to see a pattern. “The bond amounts varied between the different Judges and there wasn’t much consistency among them, so it is hard to say why some individuals were released on their own recognizance and why some were given extremely high bond amounts,” said Nadine Yousif Kalasho, co-founder of CODE Legal Aid, the nonprofit serving as co-counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) in the Hamama v. Adducci class action lawsuit.
The ACLU lead the efforts to saving the detainees when they filed the class action suit on June 15 to halt the deportations. Stating they would face persecution, torture and even death if deported as they are Chaldean Catholics. Ultimately, Judge Goldmsith sided with the ACLU, extending his original stay.
On his criminal record, Ketty had one felony from 1992 after he was convicted for delivering cocaine.
Ketty, however, believes that the judge took more than just his criminal record into consideration on January 24. “[The] judge was fair because she took all my good community service [into] account,” said Ketty.
Ketty’s community service includes donating to countless organizations as he has been fortunate enough to start a business, Creative Brick Paving and Landscape Construction, that has allowed him to give back. Ketty has also wrote and published a children’s book. All of the proceeds were donated.
Also falling into the jurisdiction of the Cleveland Immigration courts, M.S. – who has opted to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – was granted bond on January 23.
Granted bond at $15,000, M.S. was not as fortunate as Ketty, but still considers himself lucky. Charged with second degree criminal sexual conduct in January 2006, M.S. served three years in county jail.
Also, unlike Ketty, M.S. was not picked up during the ICE raids on June 11. Instead, he was picked up months before on February 28, 2017 during what was supposed to be a regular check-in with immigration.
Resonating with him to this day, M.S. recalls the words of the ICE agent that arrested him back in February 2017. “When I asked him why I was being arrested, he said to me, ‘you’ve been escaping through the cracks of the system.’”
As different as each of their situation may be, Ketty and M.S. have one thing in common. Their qualms are not with the judges who have been tasked with granting bonds, as they feel the judges have been fair, but with the system.
The conditions in which the detainees were forced to live in, according to Ketty are horrible and the corrections officers were not equipped to handle as many people as there were in the facility.
“The jail had mold growing and our noses would bleed and we were always on some kind of medication because off a cold or antibiotics,” said Ketty. “[The] staff could not treat us or house us correctly, everything was short or they are understaffed.”
For someone like M.S., medical care was imperative. Suffering from epilepsy that is worsened by stress, M.S. found himself sometimes suffering from multiple seizures a day contributing to his steady deterioration over the course of more than 11 months.
“I’ve been epileptic since I was eight years old, the main reason my seizures get triggered is stress – mental stress or physical stress,” explained M.S. “When we came back from Arizona to Ohio, I was under a lot of stress and I started having a lot of seizures, I lost count of how many I had. At one point, I had five seizures in one day. They [Northeast Ohio Correction Facility] only had an LPN, a nurse practitioner there. The only medical treatment I got was when they would check my vitals and make sure I was alive.”
Suffering from multiple stress induced seizures a day, M.S. insisted he be able to see a neurologist, but was turned away by the nurse practitioner. “The medical treatment is really bad over there in Ohio, your best bet is to not get sick,” he said.
In the courtroom
While the bond hearings started off with a seemingly positive tone, as they continued, the news that some detainees were being denied rippled through the community at a fast pace. Families found themselves holding their breaths again, waiting for the pin to drop for their own loved ones’ hearings.
Much of the confusion came as each story was passed from one person to the next, details getting butchered in the mix.
For many, the anxiety stemmed from the fear of the unknown. Many detainees and their families found themselves wondering what exactly judges would be taking into consideration when determining bond.
According to Grzic, the court will likely look at if the detainee is a danger to the community, and whether or not they are a flight risk. “The judge will take into consideration a person’s criminal history, the types of crimes, the length of time the person has gone without any contact with law enforcement, their reporting history, whether they successfully completed probation and any other programs they were ordered to complete,” she explained. “They will also look at family members in the United States, whether they have a job, place to live, what kind of activities and other ties they have to their community such as church membership, volunteer activities, etc. This obviously isn’t a complete list; however, these are the main things.”
As of February 10, 182 bond hearings have been completed. Of those 182 hearings, 119 of the individuals have been granted bond. These numbers are subject to change, however, as more information is expected at the end of February.
For those who were denied, there are a few options.
“In regards to release, there are a few things that those individuals can try: (a) appealing the bond order; (b) seek a second bond hearing if circumstances change; and (c) wait for class counsel to bring another motion for release after we get documents from the government,” explained Kalasho. “Our Hamama legal team has written to the detainees to explain these options in depth, and affected family members can be in contact with me for more information.”
The issues, though, do not stop at just those who were denied bond.
While many were granted bond, not all have been able to post bond. As of February 3, 71 individuals have been released. More numbers will be available at the end of February as to how many individuals were released after the February 3 date.
According to Grzic, the most common issues for detainees is the ability to pay bond or even offer collateral to bond agencies that would post bonds.
With few options, those who were denied bond continue to be detained as their families are left to figure out how to bring them home. Many have turned to fundraisers, such as GoFundMe, in hopes of raising the money needed to bring their loved ones home.
Release, however, is not the signifier of the end. As each individual continues to wait for their immigration case to proceed, they may also be subject to supervision by ICE. Those who have been granted and released on bond should follow up with ICE or their attorney as to whether or not they must report or follow any regulations of supervision.
Released or not, though, each detainee will continue to wait for their individual immigration cases to proceed. For those who still do not have an attorney retained, it is imperative that they consult and retain an immigration attorney to file necessary motions.
The process to becoming a legal resident once again is a long and laborious fight. The length of the process varies for each immigration case. It is dependent on where the case is procedurally. According to attorneys, there is a backup in the Board if Immigration Appeals, where several cases are pending.
In other words, it could take several years for an immigration case to come to an end.
In it for the long haul, the ACLU is determined to bring families back together. Through being physically in the courtrooms, fighting for the rights of the community, to passing on any and all information those affected.
There is a continued concern for the safety of people returning. Families are encouraged to continue fighting for their loved ones as the ACLU and their legal team continue to fight for release.
In response to issues that have arisen in the bond hearings, The ACLU and their co-counsel are scheduled to be heard in front of Judge Goldsmith Monday, March 7.
The ACLU, along with Miller Canfield, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and CODE Legal Aid, will be hosting an informational session on Saturday, March 3 for those affected by the deportation crisis, including previously detained class members and families of those affected.
Meant to keep those affected informed and up to date, this event will be hosted in the KEYS Grace Academy gymnasium. The session will include a panel comprised of members of the Hamama legal team. Dinner and refreshments will be provided.
While this event is free, those who would like to attend must RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, number of people attending, and a contact number.
In April the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is honoring the ACLU as Humanitarians of the Year for their efforts to help the detainees giving them their day in court. The Chaldean News will feature a story about their work and the award in the April issue.
The contents of this article are not intended to serve as legal advice, should you have any questions or concerns, consult your individual lawyers.