The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has recently challenged the forcible removal of Iraqis throughout the country by claiming Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lied to a federal court about Iraq willing to take back more than 1,000 citizens of the country ordered to be deported from the U.S.
It all started during mass immigration sweeps that took place across the nation in June 2017. More than 100 Iraqis were arrested for crimes – many committed years ago.
Taking notice of the matter, a class-action lawsuit was filed by the ACLU to stop the United States from deporting Iraqi nationals. As a result, the U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered the Department of Homeland Security employees "shall not threaten prosecution, project or suggest how long they might remain in detention, projecting when or suggesting they will be sent to Iraq, and must inform detainees they cannot be punished."
But, a couple of months ago, a federal judge found out the ICE agents were still pressuring Iraqi immigrants into signing “voluntary” travel documents that would lead to their deportation, thereby giving away their right to legally stay in the United States.
Moreover, many of them who have remained jailed for more than a year, awaiting possible deportation to Iraq, faced appalling conditions at the detention center. For instance, the ACLU stated ordeals Iraq nationals have been facing include being denied access to water, food, and the restroom. On other occasions, ICE guards allegedly called Iraqis “camel jockey,” “terrorist,” and “rag head.”
However, the recent revelation by the organization implies ICE agents not just used abusive tactics to coerce people into signing documents, it also apparently lied to the federal court while keeping more than 100 Iraqis in detention for months.
“It is absolutely appalling that ICE would lock people up and throw away the key. But it’s even more appalling that ICE would mislead the court in order to do that. ICE’s dishonesty is the reason the detainees are behind bars, rather than home with their families,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, in a statement.
In the court filings, the ACLU alleges the ICE’s claims that Iraq had agreed to take back its citizens were false. In fact, the Iraqi government has a longstanding policy that the country won’t take back people who are forcibly being repatriated.
“The government has fought for fourteen months to hide the truth,” said Margo Schlanger, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and an attorney assisting the ACLU with the case, in a statement. “We’ve finally gotten the documents, and it turns out that what the government told the court is untrue. We hope the court will allow us to share the truth with the detainees, their families, and the public, all of whom deserve to know what is really happening in this case.”
It is important to mention many Iraqi immigrants are at risk of serious torture if they are returned to their homeland. The federal judge found that detainees, many of whom belonged to religious minorities, would face horrible conditions back home based on their residence in the U.S., their criminal records, or their religious affiliation.
But ICE apparently doesn’t care about that as ACLU pointed to people like Firas Nissan, who has been in the U.S. for nearly two decades after fleeing Iraq because he had been threatened and locked up there.
“He is locked in solitary confinement 21 hours a day, is not receiving needed medical care, can rarely see his family, and has not been able to provide for them, though he was previously the family’s breadwinner,” attorneys with the ACLU wrote in their filing calling for Nissan and others’ release.
The organization reportedly wants the judge to issue sanctions against ICE, citing prolonged detention is unconstitutional when the deportation is unlikely. It also said the public should be allowed to see the documents that show ICE’s prior statements to the court were false.
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