The ACLU of Michigan recognized by the Chaldean Chamber
By Ashourina Slewo
When hundred of Iraqi nationals throughout metro Detroit were rounded up in raids carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in June of last year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) did not hesitate to step in. Immediately following the raids, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit, arguing that not only those being targeted by ICE should have the right to petition for asylum.
It is for this massive effort that the ACLU has been chosen by the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce to be honored as this year’s Humanitarian of the Year. The ACLU will be honored at the chamber’s 15th Annual Awards Dinner on April 13.
“The [Chaldean Community] Foundation has been fantastic,” said Margo Schlanger, a law professor at the University of Michigan and one of the lead litigators in the Hamama V. Adducci suit. “Working on this case has been such a privilege. It’s a community that had a really particular need and I’ve been really happy to help meet that need and then it’s a community that has really embraced us and that’s been lovely to be a part of.”
Ultimately, United States District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a preliminary injunction in July, stopping the deportations, buying those with orders of removal extra time. In what initially only included 114 Iraqi nationals from Michigan, now includes more than 1,000 across the nation. “This is a case that goes way beyond Michigan, it is a nationwide issue,” said Miriam Aukerman, Senior Staff attorney at the ACLU.
“It was a crisis,” said Aukerman. “I think that the idea you can round people up, send them to their death without any kind of due process, send them to a country where they face persecution, torture or death is appalling.”
Since June, the ACLU has not only been successful in buying time for those being targeted by ICE but has made efforts to end the prolonged detainment of those who were picked up last year. On January 2, Goldsmith issued a decision that stated those detained for six months or more, had the right to a bond hearing.
According to Schlanger, however, the ACLU and participating litigators did not anticipate such a long and arduous fight for basic rights. “We never thought it would take this long,” she explained.
“We didn’t realize how long it would take to resolve everybody’s cases,” she said. “What that means is that we didn’t contemplate that they would be in detention so very long and so we never thought about the fact that once they were in detention a long time that we’d be faced with the need to try to get them out. We didn’t know that issue [of prolonged detainment] would arise when we started.”
Now, though, most detainees have had their bond hearings, as the hearings began as soon as January 19, with several of them being granted bond.
While this order to grant bond hearings was a major step forward for the Iraqi nationals, there were several issues that arose in the courtroom during the bond proceedings. The ACLU and their co-counsel addressed these issues before Goldsmith on March 7.
According to Aukerman, another issue being addressed is the lack of transparency the ACLU has faced on the government’s part.
“The fact that we’re always operating with our hands tied behind our backs because we don’t have access to the same information that the government does,” said Aukerman. “It makes it very challenging and we just have to be nimbler and fight harder. The difference is that we really care about this. We are not fighting for an abstract principle; I’m not sure what the government lawyers would say they’re fighting for.”
As these issues continue to be addressed, Schlanger stresses how important it is for everyone with an order of removal, regardless of whether or not they were released on bond, to continue fighting their individual immigration cases.
“They need to keep fighting their immigration cases,” explained Schlanger. “For some of them, their immigration cases are still not reopened yet, so some of them need to fight to get their cases reopened and for those who have gotten their cases reopened, they need to keeping fighting to win relief in their immigration cases.”
If they stop or give up or they lose they are again at risk for detention and deportation and so they really need to fight their immigration cases
With actual lives hanging in the balance, this deportation crisis has proven to be a large issue, impacting more than just Michigan’s Chaldean community. “It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever been involved in,” explained Aukerman. “It is a massive undertaking, but it could not be a more important undertaking just because of the tremendous stakes.”