Media Contact

Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or mmccoy@aclu-nm.org

November 8, 2017

Detroit, MI-- The American Civil Liberties Union and partner organizations have filed a brief asking a federal court to order the release of Iraqi nationals who have been detained for months by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The court previously blocked the deportation of the Iraqis — many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades — until they have a meaningful opportunity to prove to an immigration court that they face persecution, torture, and death if returned to Iraq. Despite this ruling, and despite the fact that the Iraqis were living in the community for many years before, ICE has refused to release them and almost all remain detained indefinitely.

A copy of the brief can be read here.

“It is cruel and unlawful to hold our clients in indefinite immigration detention away from their loved ones,” said ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love. “Our client Abbas Al-Sokaini is a grandfather who worked three jobs to support his family here in Albuquerque. He poses no flight risk or danger to the public. The only moral and responsible course is for the government to release him on an order of supervision while his case works its way through the courts.”

Abbas Al-Sokaini, an Albuquerque grandfather who is represented by the ACLU of New Mexico, has been held in an ICE facility in El Paso, TX since early June. Without intervention from the courts, federal authorities are likely to hold him in detention away from his family for more than a year despite the fact he poses no flight risk or danger to the public.

In his absence, his family has suffered financial hardship due to losing their primary breadwinner. Because Abbas suffers from serious medical problems, including arthritis that will require surgery, his deportation officer has recommended he be released under an order of supervision which would allow him to take care of his family and receive the medical care he needs. However, on October 26 his immigration attorney received a boilerplate denial that provided no justification for his continued detention.

People in immigration proceedings cannot be detained unless the government is likely to remove them soon, and cannot be detained for prolonged periods without an individual assessment of whether they present a flight risk or are a danger to their community. The brief charges ICE is illegally refusing to release the Iraqis even though it could take many months or even years for their cases to be decided, and that it is detaining them without any individualized determination of whether their incarceration is justified.

In addition, those with removal orders who are detained for more than 90 days are entitled to an individualized review that addresses similar factors. However, instead of a meaningful review, the brief argues that Iraqi nationals have either been subject to blanket denials and extensions of their detention or they have not received a review at all.

“The Trump administration is shamefully prolonging the agony of these Iraqi families in the hopes that they voluntarily give up their immigration cases. It’s time for the court to once again step in and say enough,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The lawsuit, Hamama v. Adducci, was filed against ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. attorney general in the U.S. District Court/Eastern Michigan District. In addition to the ACLU, the nationwide class-action lawsuit was brought by CODE Legal Aid,  Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, and the law firm Miller Canfield Paddock & Stone.

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