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Judge: Iraqis held in U.S. deserve bail hearing

Hundreds of mostly Christian Iraqis in the U.S., who were rounded up for deportation by the Trump administration, should be given a chance for release on bail until their immigration appeals are adjudicated, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit on Tuesday said about 300 people being detained have a constitutional right to make bond unless the government can provide specific evidence that they’re a public safety risk. Many of the Iraqis argue they’ll be tortured if they return to their home country.

“Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed,” Goldsmith said. “This principle is familiar to all in the context of the criminal law, where even a heinous criminal — whether a citizen or not — enjoys the right to seek pre-trial release.”

The judge ordered federal authorities to release the Iraqis by Feb. 2 if they’ve been detained for six months or longer, unless a bond hearing is conducted by then. Immigration agents began arresting the people in July as part of President Donald Trump’s promised crackdown on immigration. The roundup began in Michigan, and hundreds are now held in facilities across the U.S., according to the ruling.

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment on the ruling.

In July, the judge ruled that about 1,400 Iraqis facing deportation under the crackdown couldn’t be returned en masse as Trump planned, a ruling that undermined a key element of a U.S.-Iraq accord under which the Iraqi government agreed to take them back. The deal was negotiated as a condition of dropping Iraq from a list of nations on Trump’s travel ban.

The Iraqis targeted by immigration authorities, a mix of Muslims and Christians from the Detroit area and elsewhere in the U.S., were previously deemed eligible for removal because they were convicted of crimes or had overstayed their visas. The government hasn’t provided the details of their criminal histories, and all the detainees served their sentences and were released long ago, the judge said.

The case is Hamama v. Adducci, 17-cv-11910, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

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