Feds tell judge he lacks power to halt Iraqi deportations

June 21, 2017 Updated: June 21, 2017 2:18pm

Photo: Carlos Osorio, AP

Iraqis and supporters rally outside the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Detroit. A hearing began on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the government from deporting more than 100 ... more

DETROIT (AP) — Government lawyers on Wednesday urged a federal judge to stay on the sideline in the planned deportation of more than 100 Iraqi nationals who have been living in the Detroit area, saying he has no authority to suspend their removal.

The Justice Department argued that the detainees, including many who were recently rounded up after decades in the U.S., must go to immigration court to try to remain in the U.S., not U.S. District Court. But the American Civil Liberties Union said they might be deported before an immigration judge can consider their requests to stay.

"Petitioners waited until removal was imminent (and) created their own emergency. ... They no longer have a legal basis to be in this country," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Newby said.
Most of the 114 Iraqis are Chaldean Christians, but there are some Shiite Muslims and Christian converts. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said all have criminal convictions and were ordered deported after "full and fair" hearings. The ACLU, however, said they fear torture or death in Iraq, which agreed to accept them after years of refusal.

"The stakes of this litigation just can't be overstated," said Margo Schlanger, an attorney for the group.

Before the hearing, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse holding red crosses and signs that said, "Deportation is a sentence to death."

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith didn't make an immediate decision on whether to suspend removals to allow the Iraqi nationals to return to immigration court and argue that they'll be in danger in Iraq. Newby said no one will be deported before next Tuesday.