Michigan Judge Releases Over 130 Iraqi Christians Detained by ICE Last Year

Family members rally outside Mother of God Chaldean Church in Southfield, Michigan.
Image: Rebecca Cook / Reuters

About 130 Iraqi Christians detained last year and slated for deportation will be back home with their families in Detroit for Christmas.

Last week, a federal district court in Michigan ruled that the government has a month to release the detainees still awaiting unlikely repatriation to Iraq.

Many of them are members of the Chaldean Church who were taken into custody during US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in June 2017 and face persecution if returned to their homeland, where the small Christian community was nearly wiped out by ISIS.

The Michigan federal judge presiding over the case, Mark Goldsmith, had previously halted deportations based on a nationwide preliminary injunction requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and ruled in January that the detainees had the legal right to bond hearings. About half of the detainees were released on bond, according to the ACLU, and the rest will be eligible to return home under the latest order.

“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,” reads the Hamama v. Adducci court order, which condemns the extended jail time as unconstitutional.

About 121,000 Chaldean Catholics live in Michigan, making it the faith tradition’s largest concentration of members outside of Iraq. More than 100 of them, who faced deportation due to criminal records dating back as far as three decades, were detained by ICE a year and a half ago, unsettling their families, communities, and churches.

“Families have been shattered,” Goldsmith wrote in the order, blaming the government for acting “ignobly” for not releasing them sooner.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Kate Shellnutt