ICE Is Abusing the ACLU’s Clients Because They are Fighting Trump’s Deportation Machine

It was an evening in late July when an ICE guard told France Anwar Elias and several other Iraqi men in immigration custody in Arizona that they were going to be released. France described the feeling as, “going from death back again to life.” The men broke out in tears and embraced one another. Many of them had been in immigration custody for months, unsure of the future and frightened for what could happen if they were deported to Iraq, where they face near-certain persecution, torture, or death.

Hours later and only after the men shed their uniforms and changed into regular clothes, the guards broke the news that they were actually just being transferred to yet another immigration detention facility. Kamran Malik said that the news felt like “a knife through the heart.” He had already called his family to tell them that he was coming home, and they were waiting to celebrate.

France distinctly remembers a guard saying, with a smirk, “Sorry for the misunderstanding.”

This was not a misunderstanding.

It was one cruel moment in a series of abuses that the ACLU’s clients have suffered since they entered ICE’s custody in May. They had been transferred by ICE in July to GEO, a privately owned 1,500 bed immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado.

The ACLU is deeply concerned about reports of abuse and retaliation by ICE against our clients because of their participation in a nationwide class action suit which seeks to stop the immediate deportation of any Iraqi national in the United States. As members of the ACLU of Colorado’s legal team, we traveled to GEO to meet with the men and document their experiences.

GEO, the second largest immigration detention facility in the country, is a tightly regulated, colorless institution with bare cement walls, large metal doors that lock at every threshold and scores of prisoners in scrubs. Each of the detainees we interviewed provided accounts of mistreatment. These accounts were consistent, as was their palpable fear of death if ultimately deported to Iraq.

ICE appears to be targeting Iraqi nationals, because these men are fighting President Trump in court. In March, Trump struck a deal with the Iraqi government: If that government accepted individuals deported from the United States, he would omit Iraq from the list of six Muslim-majority countries banned from traveling to the U.S. In May, ICE began making mass arrests of Iraqis with open removal orders with the intent to deport them immediately.

Among those arrested were Christians, Kurds, and Muslims. They had been living in the United States for varying lengths of time, many for decades. Many who were swept up are Chaldean Christians, members of a religious and ethnic minority that faces violent persecution in Iraq. Fears of violence have been exacerbated by the rise of ISIS, which has also targeted Sunni and Kurdish Muslims. All of these men have reason to believe that living in America will mark them as targets for persecution by ISIS or other groups should they return to Iraq.

Deporting people to a country where they are likely to face violent persecution is not only immoral; it is against American and international law. That’s why the ACLU is fighting in court to allow these individuals time to reopen their cases and prove the danger which awaits them in Iraq. In late July, a federal district judge blocked the federal government from immediately deporting anyone and extended our class action to include Iraqis with final orders of removal nationwide. But the fight is not over to ensure that everyone gets a chance to make their case before an Immigration judge.

Since the court’s ruling, ICE appears to have ramped up its efforts to make the lives of Iraqis in custody so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” sign away their rights to reopen their immigration cases or pursue asylum. The Iraqis have been singled out and denied food, water, and access to the restroom.

One man, who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, reflected that if he goes back to Iraq, he will be tortured and killed. Still, he feels that his experiences at the hands of ICE are “a different way of torture.” He has told his wife that he is considering just signing the form and going back to Iraq.

In Arizona and Colorado, and on the plane traveling between the two locations, ICE guards referred to the Iraqis as “camel jockey,” “rag head,” and “terrorist.” Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, “You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis.” When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was “an alien.”

ICE guards in Arizona and Colorado have openly pressured Iraqi nationals to sign away their right to fight their immigration cases. Some guards told the detainees that their situations were hopeless and urged them to sign forms agreeing to voluntary deportation, without counsel present. Some Iraqis apparently succumbed to the pressure. The brave men we spoke to have decided to stay and fight.

The ICE guards have no idea whether the detainees have a valid basis to fight their removal. Some detainees said the guards mocked the lawsuit, saying that it would fail. This psychological manipulation is clearly being done to cause distress in those choosing to participate in the legal action.

It is tragic that these individuals, who fear persecution in Iraq because of their religion and connection to America, are now being persecuted by agents of the United States government.

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Steven, thank you for your service to this country and for this concise post. We as Americans are better than this rotten Cheeto and his cancerous deplorables. We must fight, we will prevail, we are USA.

jiminy cricket

Thank you Steven, for your service, and for standing up - as a military veteran - for basic decency and compassion.


Bunch of Cowarts coming to the USA. Fight for your Country, Like we did, I went to Vietnam my father was in World War 2. "Freedom is not free" and illegal refugee want everythings free B.S. go back to your country and fight for your country. Illegals Refugee don't have rights, they were not born here in the USA. 12 million Immigrants many of European decents, Muslims Nigeria Syrian and so on. Sharia Law is coming over here to the USA. That's what you want if you don't suport. We wil be in a War here latter on. Years to come. Reply


Wow- that's quite an emotional appeal, and on so many levels! What rhetoric -and outright propaganda and trash. Let's see: rah rah rah rally the troops, rally 'round the flag, boys! Throw in Trump bashing to broaden your appeal. Then go to 'but for' then 'how great we are' .....toss in a biblical reference, a quote from a FF -and end with more Trump bashing. SMH BTW the Franklin quote you chose doesn't fit this situation.
FF's and early settlers - those who CREATED our govt and our society - came primarily from European cultural and political background- and THAT was what they brought here, and founded us upon; as an ENGLISH speaking nation with free institutions based upon Anglo-Saxon culture and English common law. [This isn't racist - it's fact.]
FF's did NOT favor ... or encourage ...unlimited immigration. George Washington: immigration should be limited to "useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions." Thomas Jefferson: concerned that unrestricted immigration of those from countries not acquainted with principle of representative govt might undo their work. "Yet, from such we are to expect the greatest number of immigrants." Even IF they were rejecting the principles of govt's they left, Jefferson further feared they would pass "from one extreme to the other. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. ... In Proportion to their numbers, they will share legislation with us. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp or bias its direction and render it a HETEROGENEOUS, INCOHERENT MASS." Alas, despite their knowledge, feelings, and warnings, they left it to each individual state to regulate immigration according to their needs.
By 1880, immigration #'s had exploded. Ads were placed to entice immigrant workers - NOT to fill waiting open jobs- but to create a surplus of labor and thus depress wages of American workers. [Sound familiar????] Americans also began to feel the political influence of this influx of immigrants - and as Jefferson had foreseen, many supported BOSS RULE - not free representative process. THOSE issues have MUSHROOMED and overwhelmed us today.
FF's envisioned that our major export would be 'democracy.' That we would be so prosperous that each country would look at us, and we would be beacon for the world -- and they would want to EMULATE us. Alas, what's happened - as WE have foolishly allowed this unfettered assault - is that they have RESHAPED U.S. into the WORST part of the countries they reject/ed.
BTW, our early immigration law required: SPONSOR -and if immigrant became unemployed or homeless, it was the SPONSORING American that took him in and supported him (NOT govt. And I believe there were outright stated restrictions - that they would NOT be eligible for ANY social service programs for a lengthy specified period of time.) HEALTH: Subject to immediate refusal at border -with return to their country of origin; QUARANTINE was also utilized. We didn't allow influx of immigrants to endanger public health. Personal references were also required - they had to ATTEST to immigrant's character. Yep, they had to PAY to file application for naturalization. TEN YEAR waiting period. What I've NOT found - is those immigrants slamming U.S. by coming here ILLEGALLY, or whining/complaining about cost, or having to apply for citizenship.
Those who are subject of THIS article are here ILLEGALLY. Anyone deported has either signed agreeing to deportation, or had a hearing and is ordered to be deported. Clearly most commenting here have NO understanding of the process. BTW -go to MEXICO and stay there as an "ILLEGAL" --- penalty? Up to 3 yrs in PRISON. No 'hearings' -no 'lawyer furnished by and paid by Mexico' --- Get caught working in Mexico without appropriate permits issued by them - kiss your arse good-bye.
For those of you who are so fond of telling others to 'move to N. Korea' I have little to no doubt that N. Korea has immigration laws that they enforce ... and that they would NOT have open arms to U.S. citizens. Your comments do ignore the U.S. Constitution - the one you say you so fervently support. Specifically, those who disagree with you DO have a RIGHT to voice their opinions.
HOW LONG did y'all think everyone was going to ignore this rampant (legal and illegal) immigration problem??? Many, many, many have been trying to get our elected officials to address problem for decades. So-Trump's election? Partially on YOU for failure to act.
We absolutely DO need to enforce our immigration laws - including deportation. We need serious reform - that DECREASES #'s of immigrants, and returns us to quota system. [Most citizens I know FAVOR that quota system and don't realize the DAMAGE done as result of 1965 Act.]


aclu is ruining America


Asking the ACLU's opinion on illegal aliens is like asking the Tobacco companies if cigarettes cause cancer/


They're nationals, here legally. Right in the first paragraph.


Fuck the ACLU

Joe Owens

Wrong, Ice is deporting a bunch of illegal criminals that broke our laws by illegally crossing the border, and God bless President Trump for doing his job.


All of these people came here legally. NONE of them crossed the border illegally. Thanks for making it clear that you didn't bother to read the article


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