ACLU argues deporting 1,400 Iraqis would jeopardize their lives

The American Civil Liberties Union has expanded a petition to prevent the deportation of Iraqis in Michigan and Northern Ohio into a nationwide class action covering more than 1,400 Iraqis facing removal orders.

The ACLU and detainees argue that if the Iraqis were forced to return to Iraq, they would face “persecution, torture, or death.”

A hearing is set for Monday morning at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Stay of removal

A federal judge on June 22 granted a 14-day stay of removal for more than 100 Iraqi detainees under the jurisdiction of Detroit’s Immigration Customs Enforcement office (ICE), after the ACLU filed its initial complaint on June 15.

The stay prevents any of the Iraqis detained by Detroit ICE agents from being deported for two more weeks. It also gives detainees an opportunity to go before an immigration judge and make their case for why they believe they should be allowed to stay in the United States.

In his decision granting the temporary stay, US District Judge Mark Goldsmith argued that the potential “harm far outweighs” the government’s interest in immediately enforcing the removal orders, according to court documents.

As well as expanding its class action nationwide, the ACLU filed a motion Saturday asking Goldsmith to extend his stay-of-removal order nationwide. It said it had asked the judge for a ruling by Monday because ICE had indicated that it might start deportations as early as Tuesday.

ICE last week said it was reviewing the judge’s stay of removal order in the Michigan case and intended to comply with its terms.

Shift in ICE focus

In its amended complaint, the ACLU said plaintiffs had in many cases been living in the United States for decades.

“According to government officials, there are more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal.

“Although most were ordered removed to Iraq years ago (some for overstaying visas, others based on criminal convictions for which they long ago completed any sentences), the government released them, often under orders of supervision,” the ACLU said in its amended complaint.

The ACLU said the plaintiffs had been complying with the conditions of their release when “with no warning” ICE began arresting and detaining them because Iraq had agreed to take them back.

Iraq recently said it would accept deportees in exchange for being removed from the countries listed in President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

That agreement triggered a shift in the focus of ICE raids, according to ICE’s press secretary Gillian Christensen. The office had arrested 199 Iraqi nationals since May, 114 of them from Detroit, Christensen said in a statement earlier this month. ICE says most have criminal records.

Jurisdiction issue

Over the next two weeks, Judge Goldsmith will try to determine whether or not a federal district court has jurisdiction over the matter in the first place.

The US attorney’s office argued that a federal district court did not have jurisdiction over whether or not these Iraqis can be deported. They believe it should be handled by an immigration court, according to Gina Balaya, public information officer for the US attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Goldsmith granted the 14-day stay “pending the Court’s determination regarding whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction,” according to court documents.

Many of the Iraqis who were detained are Chaldeans, members of an Iraqi Christian group that has historically faced problems in Iraq. The Detroit metropolitan area is home to the largest US group of Chaldeans.

Some of them started immigrating to the United States in the 1920s for opportunities and freedom, the Chaldean Community Foundation said.

Many faced persecution during the Saddam Hussein era, during the Iraq war and after ISIS seized territory in Iraq.

“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case, said in a statement last week. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

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Chelsea Manning participates in NYC Pride

Chelsea Manning, the former US Army intelligence analyst who spent time in prison for sharing classified documents, participated in her first Pride event since her early release in May.

Manning joined the New York City Pride March Sunday as part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s contingent.

She greeted revelers with smiles and waves from a parade float, then hopped in the grand marshal convertible toward the end of the event with ACLU lawyer James Esseks and Gavin Grimm, the Virginia transgender teen who sued his school district for refusing to grant him access the boys’ restroom.

“Honored to represent the ACLU at this years NYC Pride March,” Manning said in an image she shared on social media. “Started to lose my voice from screaming so much.”

The ACLU represents Manning in her lawsuit against the US government over prison conditions.

She was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos and handing them over to WikiLeaks. As one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January, giving her an early release date.

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Chelsea Manning participates in NYC Pride

Chelsea Manning, the former US Army intelligence analyst who spent time in prison for sharing classified documents, participated in her first Pride event since her early release in May.

Manning joined the New York City Pride March Sunday as part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s contingent.

She greeted revelers with smiles and waves from a parade float, then hopped in the grand marshal convertible toward the end of the event with ACLU lawyer James Esseks and Gavin Grimm, the Virginia transgender teen who sued his school district for refusing to grant him access the boys’ restroom.

“Honored to represent the ACLU at this years NYC Pride March,” Manning said in an image she shared on social media. “Started to lose my voice from screaming so much.”

The ACLU represents Manning in her lawsuit against the US government over prison conditions.

She was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for stealing 750,000 pages of documents and videos and handing them over to WikiLeaks. As one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January, giving her an early release date.

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At Pride celebrations, protesters chant ‘No Justice, No Pride’

At Pride celebrations across the United States on Sunday, a protest movement that aims to draw attention to the struggles of marginalized people within the LGBTQ community made itself heard.

Activists carrying signs declaring “No Justice No Pride” and “Black Lives Matter” appeared in New York, Minneapolis and Seattle, among other major cities. In some they were welcomed and invited to speak; in others, the activists interrupted parades and clashed with police, leading to an unconfirmed number of arrests.

The protests disrupted pride events earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC. Their causes varied — police shootings, violence against transgender women of color, mass deportations, corporate sponsorship of Pride — but organizer Angela Peoples said members of the grassroots movement were united by concerns of the “whitewashing” of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s a broad concern among LGBTQ folks, especially people of color, that this movement that claims victory around marriage equality has very much left behind those of us who still experience marginalization,” Peoples said.

Law enforcement’s participation in Pride parades embodies the disconnect, she said, pointing to the arrests of protesters last weekend in Columbus. So does the involvement of corporate sponsors that benefit from mass incarceration and the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she said.

“This is a true grassroots movement where people are aligning under the notion that there’s no equality and pride for some of us without reparations for all of us,” she said.

In Minneapolis, protesters waving “Black Lives Matter signs” marched behind a large banner that read “Justice for Philando” in honor of Philando Castile, who was shot to death in a traffic stop. A jury acquitted the officer who killed him earlier this month.

Protesters blocked the parade route and delayed its start by more than an hour as they called for police to be excluded from Pride events.

Activists in Seattle halted the parade by blocking the road in honor of Charleena Lyle, a 30-year-old woman whom police said they shot and killed because she refused commands to drop a knife.

In New York, police said 12 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were detained outside the historic Stonewall Inn as they carried signs that read “No Cops, No Banks.”

NYC Pride organizers said they have a policy against restricting groups from participating. They said they decided to “authorize” the arrests so the march could proceed after the activists had demonstrated for 10 minutes.

“There were some 40,000 marchers behind them who needed to have their message (heard) as well,” NYC Pride spokesperson James Fallarino said. “We believe strongly that it’s a free speech event. That has worked on both ends of the spectrum. We have always held the line that any group interested in our march can participate.”

Fallarino said it was impossible to run an event of Pride’s size without police presence. Parade organizers recognize that police violence is a “major issue” in the United States, he said. They’re trying to address it through a “good working relationship” with the NYPD.

“As you probably know, this march started after a police raid at Stonewall Inn. We’ve come a long way since then.”

Indeed, Pride originated 48 years ago in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of uprisings by women of color from the LGBTQ community over the Inn’s raid.

The significance of Pride’s origins makes it the ideal staging ground for today’s protests within the LGBTQ community, Peoples said. But they will continue after Pride ends.

“If you truly honor the history of Pride as well as the crisis we’re in, then you will recognize the need for disruption to bring attention to issues of marginalized people,” she said. “This is not a one-off movement.”

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At Pride celebrations, protesters chant ‘No Justice, No Pride’

At Pride celebrations across the United States on Sunday, a protest movement that aims to draw attention to the struggles of marginalized people within the LGBTQ community made itself heard.

Activists carrying signs declaring “No Justice No Pride” and “Black Lives Matter” appeared in New York, Minneapolis and Seattle, among other major cities. In some they were welcomed and invited to speak; in others, the activists interrupted parades and clashed with police, leading to an unconfirmed number of arrests.

The protests disrupted pride events earlier this month in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC. Their causes varied — police shootings, violence against transgender women of color, mass deportations, corporate sponsorship of Pride — but organizer Angela Peoples said members of the grassroots movement were united by concerns of the “whitewashing” of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s a broad concern among LGBTQ folks, especially people of color, that this movement that claims victory around marriage equality has very much left behind those of us who still experience marginalization,” Peoples said.

Law enforcement’s participation in Pride parades embodies the disconnect, she said, pointing to the arrests of protesters last weekend in Columbus. So does the involvement of corporate sponsors that benefit from mass incarceration and the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she said.

“This is a true grassroots movement where people are aligning under the notion that there’s no equality and pride for some of us without reparations for all of us,” she said.

In Minneapolis, protesters waving “Black Lives Matter signs” marched behind a large banner that read “Justice for Philando” in honor of Philando Castile, who was shot to death in a traffic stop. A jury acquitted the officer who killed him earlier this month.

Protesters blocked the parade route and delayed its start by more than an hour as they called for police to be excluded from Pride events.

Activists in Seattle halted the parade by blocking the road in honor of Charleena Lyle, a 30-year-old woman whom police said they shot and killed because she refused commands to drop a knife.

In New York, police said 12 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were detained outside the historic Stonewall Inn as they carried signs that read “No Cops, No Banks.”

NYC Pride organizers said they have a policy against restricting groups from participating. They said they decided to “authorize” the arrests so the march could proceed after the activists had demonstrated for 10 minutes.

“There were some 40,000 marchers behind them who needed to have their message (heard) as well,” NYC Pride spokesperson James Fallarino said. “We believe strongly that it’s a free speech event. That has worked on both ends of the spectrum. We have always held the line that any group interested in our march can participate.”

Fallarino said it was impossible to run an event of Pride’s size without police presence. Parade organizers recognize that police violence is a “major issue” in the United States, he said. They’re trying to address it through a “good working relationship” with the NYPD.

“As you probably know, this march started after a police raid at Stonewall Inn. We’ve come a long way since then.”

Indeed, Pride originated 48 years ago in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a series of uprisings by women of color from the LGBTQ community over the Inn’s raid.

The significance of Pride’s origins makes it the ideal staging ground for today’s protests within the LGBTQ community, Peoples said. But they will continue after Pride ends.

“If you truly honor the history of Pride as well as the crisis we’re in, then you will recognize the need for disruption to bring attention to issues of marginalized people,” she said. “This is not a one-off movement.”

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Sanders rises, Trump recedes, as health care fight heats up

If not for the promise of President Donald Trump’s signature, the current Republican effort to shred Obamacare would have ended like so many others over the past seven years — defeated at the pass.

But this time around, with an approving executive itching to sign their work, Republican leaders are pressing toward a comprehensive overhaul, ignoring pleas from Democrats on Capitol Hill for more open debate, and furiously whipping support from wobbly GOP legislators whose defections could imperil their progress.

Trump, for once, seems to be an afterthought. In conversations with more than two dozen attendees at weekend events headlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders to protest the Republican bill — first in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday night and then Columbus, Ohio, early Sunday — the President’s name never came up unprompted.

On the sidewalk outside a small concert venue in its Arena District, Columbus resident Kelly O’Rourke, 55, said the political tab for any potential harm the law might do to a grandson born with health issues or her own costs would come due on Capitol Hill.

“I’m going to blame (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and the guys who have been there for a million years,” she told CNN, dismissing the President’s role.

“Donald Trump is not a politician,” O’Rourke said. “He has no idea what he is doing. It’s not Donald Trump. It’s everybody who’s in there, laughing at us, thinking, ‘Ha-ha, ho-ho, they have to look at this circus going on and let’s — whisper, whisper, whisper — go do this without anybody knowing.'”

The Senate Republican leadership is pressing for a vote on their overhaul later this week with the goal of passing the bill before lawmakers leave Washington for the July 4 recess. House Republicans passed a similar bill by a narrow margin in May.

If the Senate GOP conference can manage 50 votes from their 52 members, the two chambers would likely hash out the differences, then send the paperwork to the Oval Office. So far, a handful of Republicans have said they oppose the bill in its current form.

Outside Washington, the calculus is more complicated. Democrats, along with advocacy and activist groups, have been appealing to the grass roots to flood the offices of Republican elected officials with calls demanding they disown the deeply contentious legislation.

Saturday night in downtown Pittsburgh, Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, rallied more than 1,500 people against the bill on the first leg of a hastily assembled joint barnstorming tour with MoveOn.org.

Passage of the Republican plan, he said, would be “a moral outrage that this nation will never live down.”

“This so-called health care bill passed in the House last month is the most anti-working-class piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives in the modern history of this country,” Sanders continued, calling the Senate’s version worse and again warning that thousands of Americans are at risk to die for lack of care under its provisions. “It is unconscionable, and it must not be allowed to happen.”

Sanders has been criticized for painting the potential repercussions in such stark terms. Still, he argued the same on Sunday in Columbus, citing academic assessments and noting he delivered the message “with pain, with anxiety.”

During a brief conversation with reporters in an Outback Steakhouse off Interstate 70, on the road from Pennsylvania to Ohio late Saturday night, he quietly cycled back through the argument and, not quite throwing his arms up, said again of the numbers, “It’s true!”

The Congressional Budget Office could release an assessment of the effects of the Senate legislation as soon as Monday, a Republican congressional aide told CNN. The office released a report in May saying that under the bill House Republicans passed last month, which has much in common with the Senate proposal, 51 million would be uninsured by 2026, 23 million fewer than would be covered under Obamacare.

The rolling protest, which hit three states in less than 24 hours, shipped off to West Virginia for an afternoon event in Charleston on Sunday, giving Sanders and allies another chance to turn the screws on three Republican senators — Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rob Portman in Ohio, and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia — whose states are expected to take disproportionate hits from the GOP’s Medicaid rollbacks.

In Columbus, Sanders trolled Portman, who has expressed concerns over the Senate GOP legislation that he himself helped craft in a secret Senate working group, with some advice: “If you don’t believe what I’m saying, listen to your own governor, John Kasich.”

Only a few hours earlier, Kasich, a Republican former presidential candidate in 2016, doubled down on his criticism in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The total number of dollars that are going to be dedicated to Medicaid are not enough,” Kasich said. “It’s not enough resources there, and I’ve been very concerned in my state about treating the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the chronically ill, particularly under Medicaid expansion.”

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