A federal judge in Michigan has ruled that more than 100 Iraqi Christian migrants facing deportation can stay in the United States for at least two more weeks to give the court some more time to determine its jurisdiction.
"The stay shall expire 14 days from today, unless otherwise ordered by the Court," U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said in a written opinion, according to USA Today. "The Court is unsure whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction," the judge added.
"The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq," said the ACLU, which filed for a restraining order to block deportation of 114 Christians, most of whom are from the Chaldean sect.
"They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return," the New York-based group said in a statement. "We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately be sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death."
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the Christians on June 11, alleging they had criminal backgrounds.
It would be "unconstitutional and unconscionable" to deport the migrants without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the harm that awaits them in Iraq," the ACLU said.
"My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever," said 18-year-old Cynthia Barash after the arrests, speaking of the ongoing slaughter of Christians at the hands of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq.
Her father, 47-year-old Moayad Barash, was one of those seized by ICE agents in Detroit as part of deportation efforts.
"He did something wrong 30 years ago. He didn't do anything today, yesterday, a year ago," she said, noting that her father had been caught with marijuana two or three decades ago.
Detroit-area educational and community leader Nathan Kalasho noted that Iraqi Christians have been designated victims of genocide. "Who could think that this deal could possibly be good?" he asked. "Iraq assumes a few hundred former nationals — some of these people have spent nearly their entire lives here and some have committed minor offenses. They've paid their debt to society."
Watchdog groups and reports have indicated that over 80 percent of Christians have fled Iraq in the last 13 years due to sectarian violence and the rise of the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.
Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians in 2003 but now fewer than 300,000 remain.
Trump has issued two executive orders, temporarily suspending refugee resettlement and banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries. Both have been blocked by federal judges. Many religious groups and evangelicals have denounced the executive orders, calling for compassion for those seeking to settle in the U.S., though some have backed Trump in his efforts to keep the nation safe.