Hamentashen for Iraqi Detainee Families

Support for MI Iraqi Families During Deportation Crisis

During Purim week, AARC Beit Sefer and congregation members will be baking hamentashen for the families of Iraqi detainees. On March 3, the detainees’ legal team, which includes AARC members Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos,  is hosting an informational dinner for the families of detainees, and we will be providing dessert. This will be our congregation’s way of fulfilling the Purim mitzvah of mishloach manot, giving gifts of tasty treats to friends and strangers.


Opportunities to Bake

Here is some background on the detainees’ situation from the ACLU of Michigan. In June 2017 hundreds of Iraqis in Michigan and throughout the country were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which intended to deport them immediately to Iraq, a country where many have not lived since they were young children. Most have been living in the United States for decades, but were previously ordered removed to Iraq—either for overstaying visas or for previous criminal convictions.

As a matter of policy, the United States has not deported people to Iraq because of dangerous country conditions, and because the Iraqi government has refused to issue travel documents. In March 2017, however, Iraq agreed to accept Iraqis deported by the United States back into the country, in exchange for being removed from President Trump’s travel ban list. Suddenly, any Iraqi with an open removal order was a target.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal court to stop the deportations on the grounds that they would likely result in persecution, torture, or even death for those deported, either because they are members of minority religions or because they are Western-affiliated.

“When the clerk calls him forward, Attorney Ed Bajoka explains he has three paths to pursue in seeking release of his client, Mukhlis Murad, who’s been detained for nearly six months. Murad is a 59-year-old suburban grandfather with numerous health problems. His adult children and his sister are in the waiting room. When asked how it’s been at home without her dad there, his 23-year-old daughter, Summer, answers swiftly and directly, ‘He’s our best friend. Murad is one of several hundred Iraqi-born U.S. residents now facing detention and deportation. Many are married to U.S. citizens. Most speak English. At least half are Chaldean and speak Aramaic — not necessarily Arabic. They are parents and grandparents, business owners, and taxpayers. Many are churchgoing Catholics.” (From the ThinkProgress article “Trump’s travel ban puts a religious minority he promised to protect in the cross hairs.”)

Hamama legal team, December 2017

In June 2017 Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered a temporary stay of deportation for Iraqis in Michigan. In July 2017 Judge Goldsmith granted an expanded preliminary injunction barring deportation of Iraqis throughout the country while they access the immigration court system, giving them time to file motions to reopen their immigration cases based on the changed country conditions or legal developments in the decades since their cases were decided.

The legal team went to court in December and asked Judge Goldsmith to order the release of these Iraqi Nationals absent a showing that any of them are a flight risk, danger to society, or face an imminent removal to Iraq. Judge Goldsmith then ordered that the government must provide bond hearings for the detained Iraqi nationals and must show by clear and convincing evidence that the detainee is a danger or a flight risk and if no bond hearing is provided, the individual must be released.

Most of the bond hearings have been completed. There have been 182 bond hearings. 119 have been granted, but 63 have been denied. However, there also a good number who were granted bond hearings, but cannot afford the bond amount.

In summary, progress has been made with reuniting many families, but a big chunk of families are still separated from their loved ones. Getting released on bond is not the end of the battle. Release just allows the individuals to work and be with their families while their individual immigration process continues.

The legal team in Hamama v. Adducci is ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio, and Michael J. Steinberg; Legal Fellow Juan Caballero; National ACLU attorneys Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinowitz, and Anand Balakrishnan; ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorneys Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos of U-M Law School; Kimberly Scott and Wendy Richards of Miller Canfield; co-counsel Nadine Yousif and Nora Youkhana of CODE Legal Aid; Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; and William Swor.