DETROIT (AP) – A hearing is scheduled Wednesday on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the government from deporting more than 100 Iraqi nationals who were recently rounded up.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Detroit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking a temporary stay of deportations. The ACLU said Friday that possible deportations aren’t expected at least until after the request is heard.
The lawsuit says it would be illegal to deport the detainees without giving them a chance to prove they could face torture or death if returned to Iraq.
The ACLU says most of the 114 Iraqis arrested in last weekend’s Detroit-area raids are Chaldean Christians, but there are also some Shiite Muslims and Christian converts. ICE says all have criminal convictions.
Chaldeans are among Iraqi Christian denominations emerging in the faith’s early days. Their population in Iraq has dwindled as hundreds of thousands flee war and violence.
“Cal,” an Iraqi Christian who came to the U.S. in 1978, served eight years in prison for armed robbery and was released. He tells WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton he has had no legal problems since 1999.
Being sent home, he said, would almost surely be a death sentence.
“If I’m sent there…I’m a Christian; automatic death. I have tattoos that indicate that I am a Christian, a cross on one, Mother Mary on the other. They’re corralling us here, and they’re sending us to death,” he said.
“Being picked up, leaving my family behind and being send back to Iraq…anywhere in Iraq, I will be killed. I will be killed.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said in a statement that Iraq recently agreed to accept Iraqi nationals subject to removal from the U.S. ICE says all of those arrested had criminal convictions (for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses) and were ordered deported by an immigration judge.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.