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U.S. Judge Halts Iraqis’ Deportation Until Court Review

DETROIT — A federal judge Tuesday halted the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including many Christians fearing persecution, while courts review the orders to remove them from the U.S.

Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a 24-page opinion asserting jurisdiction in the case over the objection of the Justice Department, which argued U.S. district judges do not have jurisdiction.

"This Court concludes that to enforce the Congressional mandate that district courts lack jurisdiction — despite the compelling context of this case — would expose Petitioners to the substantiated risk of death, torture, or other grave persecution before their legal claims can be tested in a court," Goldsmith wrote in a 24-page opinion.

Goldsmith earlier blocked the deportations while he considered whether he had jurisdiction over the case.

Related: Members of Iraqi Religious Minority Who Supported Trump Detained by ICE

Many of the Iraqis, including 114 rounded up in the Detroit area last month who are mostly Christians, fear attacks over their religion if returned to Iraq. The government says they face deportation because they committed crimes in the U.S.

Iraqis and supporters rally outside the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse June 21, 2017 in Detroit, ahead of a hearing on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the government from deporting more than 100 Iraqi nationals. Carlos Osorio / AP

Goldsmith earlier extended a ruling suspending the deportation of the 114 while he considered jurisdiction to all Iraqi nationals in the U.S.

The U.S. government said 1,400 Iraqis are under deportation orders nationwide, though most are not in custody. Some have been under orders for years because they committed crimes in the U.S. But legal action over deportations took on new urgency because Iraq has agreed to accept them.

The American Civil Liberties Union said a suspension is necessary so Iraqi nationals can go to immigration court and argue that their lives would be in jeopardy if returned to their native country. Without some intervention, the ACLU contends that people could be deported before their case is called.

Goldsmith scheduled a Wednesday hearing to discuss several matters in the case, including a request from the Iraqis for a preliminary injunction barring the deportations.