Bond hearings have started to be held for some of the nearly 300 Iraqi nationals who have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And a lot more will start next week.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered the release by February 2 of the detainees who have been held for more than six months, unless the government can show that they are a flight or public safety risk.
"We're very pleased to see these bond hearings moving forward because the government will have to prove that there's a reason to keep people behind bars," said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which represents the detainees.
Aukerman said she does not think the government is going to be able to prove that.
"These individuals have been locked up for no reason for a long time," said Aukerman. "Their families are suffering. They've lost businesses. They're losing their homes."
Aukerman said the government has insisted on holding bond hearings for all the detainees who fall within Judge Goldsmith's order, regardless of whether there is any evidence of flight or public safety risk.
"The attorneys anticipate that an order will be issued by the court that bond hearings need to be completed by February 2 for most of the country," said Aukerman. "But for individuals who are being detained in Ohio or Michigan, half of them have to be completed by February 2 and the other half by February 16."
Replying to a request for comment on Judge Goldsmith's January decision, ICE issued a written statement saying it is reviewing the decision "to determine the path forward. ICE is deeply disturbed by the decision, but will comply with the decision unless and until it is reversed by an appellate court."
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls did not respond whether the government intends to appeal the January decision.