A federal judge in Michigan ruled last week that 130 Iraqi nationals who were detained in June 2017 and faced deportation must be released within a month. In a 59-page order in the case of Hamama v. Adducci, Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote, “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.” Iraq refuses to accept nationals deported against their will.
Many of the Iraqis are members of the Chaldean Church, a Catholic community that ISIS persecuted and almost wiped out in Iraq. The largest group of Chaldeans outside of Iraq lives in Michigan, which is home to 121,000 of them.
During the 2017 raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, more than 100 Iraqi nationals were detained. Some had criminal records with infractions from three decades ago.
After their release, the Iraqis will need to continue defending their cases but can do so at home, surrounded by family. The ruling is a “huge victory for the community,” according to The Chaldean News.
Judge Says the Government Acted “ignobly” Toward Iraqi Christians
In his order, Goldsmith agreed with the detainees’ claim that they risk “persecution, torture and possibly death if returned to Iraq.” He had harsh words for officials who kept trying to deport the detainees: “The government has acted ignobly in this case, by failing to comply with court orders, submitting demonstrably false declarations of Govt officials, and otherwise violating its litigation obligations.”
Goldsmith acknowledged that the lengthy detentions “shattered” families, depriving them of contact and stability. “It is doubtful any of them have their old jobs or businesses waiting for them after this long period of time,” he added. “Even after their release…[they] will have to start over to regain some measure of economic stability.”
Lead plaintiff Usama “Sam” Hamama mourns the time he lost with loved ones but says, “There’s nothing like being home with your family, and this Christmas, we know the true meaning of faith.”
After the ruling, Miriam Aukerman, lead ACLU attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “We don’t lock people up and throw away the key for no reason.” She expressed gratitude that detainees would be “starting 2019 with their families.”
Evangelicals Had Advocated for the Detainees’ Release
In the letter, Matthew Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, wrote, “The situation Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq face right now is very severe. When an individual clearly presents no threat to public safety in the U.S.—but their deportation would be likely to result in them being persecuted, tortured or even killed—I call on our government to use its discretion not to carry out these deportations.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called deportation for Iraqi Christians “nothing less than a death sentence.”