M + K Client Granted 11th Hour Stay of Removal Before Scheduled Deportation to Iraq

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - 12:00pm

Maggio + Kattar client Ali was recently granted a stay of removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the evening before his scheduled deportation to Baghdad, Iraq on May 31, 2013. ICE was prepared to go forward with this deportation despite the fact that Iraq recently experienced one of the worst waves of sectarian violence since the start of the war, leading to the deaths of over than one thousand people in just the past month. On May 30, 2013, the U.N. Special Representative to Iraq noted that the country was on the verge of exploding into widespread violence.

Ali has lived in the United States for more than twelve years, and he is a well-respected massage therapist at a local gym. He has a large circle of friends and colleagues who have praised him for his unparalleled massage therapy skills, his humor, his kindness, and his compassion towards others. Ali is a hard-working individual of excellent character, who has volunteered to provide massage therapy for Iraq war veterans free of charge.

Ali came to our office a few weeks before he was scheduled to be deported to Iraq. While Ali has always been afraid of returning home, he suffered from ineffective lawyering during his immigration court proceedings. His former lawyers never informed him of the possibility of applying for asylum. As a result, his immigration court proceedings eventually culminated in the issuance of a final order of removal. Following this removal order, ICE placed him under an Order of Supervision in 2007 and he has diligently reported over the years.

During a report date this April, Ali was told to prepare for deportation in May. Maggio + Kattar worked to file a request for a stay of removal and to prepare a motion to reopen his immigration court proceedings, based both on the ineffective assistance of counsel he received, as well as the recently changed country conditions in Iraq. Both of Ali's brothers have worked for U.S. security companies in Iraq and have been threatened. As an Iraqi who has been living in the U.S. for many years, Ali would be immediately suspected of, at a minimum, pro-American political opinions and, at worst, of being an American spy if forced to return to Iraq.

Despite the strong support that Ali had, ICE indicated that it was likely to deny the stay. Maggio + Kattar was prepared to accompany Ali to the airport on May 31, 2013, and Ali had already arranged for his Lhasa Apso puppy to be raised by a friend. We initially received information from ICE's local office that the requested stay had been denied. However, a short time later, we received a follow up phone call that the local office's decision had been reversed and a six month stay of removal had been granted. Ali will now have the opportunity to file a motion to reopen his immigration court proceedings and present evidence of his eligibility for asylum.

It is striking that the United States is continuing deportations to Iraq despite the recent spike in violence. A person like Ali, who has lived in the United States for many years, would be an instant target upon return. Basic humanitarian principles would suggest that the United States should not be deporting individuals to countries where their lives will be in imminent danger.

It is especially striking that this deportation was to occur just as Congress is making progress in advancing immigration legislation, and the administration has made clear that its priorities are to focus on individuals with criminal records or who pose a risk to the security of the United States. Based on the administration's stated goals, Ali is not a priority for enforcement. On the contrary, many of Ali's supporters have noted that he is exactly the kind of individual that the United States should be fighting to keep. Maggio + Kattar will continue to fight for Ali, as well as to advocate for other individuals who are American in all but their legal status.