US Judge sides with Iraqi Christians against Trump administration's deportation plans

Hundreds of Iraqi nationals including many Christians who have been held for months under new US deportation orders under Donald Trump will get a new chance of freedom while they fight their removal, a judge said on Tuesday.

US District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered immigration judges to hold hearings and release the detainees who have been held for six months or more unless they are a public safety risk. The federal government must release detainees who do not receive a bond hearing by February 2.

Chaldean Christians protesting at the Theodore Levin US Courthouse, Detroit, in June 2017.Reuters

Goldsmith said: '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.'

The judge added that a detainee could remain locked up if the government provides specific objections.

In July, he blocked the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals – including many Christians who fear being tortured or killed if deported – to give them time to challenge their removal. Nearly 300 are still jailed or in US detention centres in around two dozen states.

The Trump administration argues that Goldsmith is exceeding his authority and should leave deportation disputes to immigration courts, and wants the detainees to be deported for crimes of varying degrees committed in the US, some from decades ago.

Kary Moss, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, said that Goldsmith 'just really reaffirmed the principle that indefinite detention in this country is not acceptable'.

Earlier this year, Chaldean Christian activists objected to arrests in Detroit and across the country of members of their community. Back then, pastor Jalil Dawood, the president of World Refugee Care, who fled Iraq as a refugee during the war with Iran in 1982, told The Christian Post: 'We can't say these people went through genocide and send them back to be victimized again! We hope and pray that the issue gets resolved...America should never deport Christians to Iraq because they will be in trouble in Iraq as over a million left Iraq since 2003, and this will cause great hardship to their loved ones here,' also bringing 'harm to them physically, mentally, and spiritually if they [are] ever sent back.'

The Christian Post pointed out that many evangelical groups, including Trump's own evangelical advisory board, have urged the administration not to deport the Iraqis.