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Relatives of detained Iraqis hope judge extends halt to deportations

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United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Iraqis facing deportation hope for temporary reprieve.

The woman's husband is among the more than 100 Iraqi nationals living in Michigan who were arrested by Immigrations and Customs agents in June. 

Friday, she sat in the back row of federal district judge Mark Goldsmith's courtroom, listening as the government argued her husband and the others they detained should face immediate deportation, and the ACLU argued that amounts to a death sentence for many -- and is against both U.S. and international law.

She withheld her name, for fear of retaliation in her husband's case, but agreed to tell his story.

He has lived in the U.S. for 38 years, she said. He married an American, had a son with her, divorced. He now has a grandson. Then he married her and they had a child, a daughter, who died last year. 

Her husband doesn't speak a word of Arabic -- the primary language in Iraq -- and he is very light-skinned. 

The ACLU says many of those facing deportation will be viewed as Americans by Iraqis, and that alone puts them at grave risk of persecution or worse. She thinks that's true. And her husband is also a practicing Christian. She says that puts a target on his back for ISIS, which controls parts of the country.

When he was 19, her husband committed a crime. She says he sat in the car in the parking lot of a gas station while a friend went in and robbed it. He spent a year in prison for the crime.

He was given a final order of deportation in 2003, but because Iraq would not accept Iraqi nationals if they had no passports, since then he has reported on a regular basis to ICE.

His arrest happened shortly after the Trump administration struck a deal with Iraq to accept Iraqi nationals without passports or visas. More than 200 people are in custody now, many hundreds of miles from their homes. About 1,000 other Iraqis who have committed crimes and have final orders of deportation also face the prospect of arrest and deportation.

During the hearing, the government argued that her husband and the others who were detained could have asked an immigration judge to reopen their cases long before this. 

She says that's not true. Her husband's attorneys, and immigration officials themselves, told him it was impossible.

So there she sat, hoping the judge agrees to order a preliminary injunction to the deportations, long enough that the Iraqis have time to ask the Court of Appeals to hear their cases.

A temporary injunction expires Monday at midnight. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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