DETROIT (AP) -- A federal judge on Monday indefinitely stopped the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqis who fear physical harm if kicked out of the U.S., the latest in a series of decisions in favor of the immigrants.
The injunction by U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit will allow the Iraqis, many of whom are Christian, to stay in the U.S. while they try to persuade immigration courts to overturn the deportations based on risks back in their native country. The 34-page order was released Monday just hours before an earlier ruling was set to expire.
Roughly 230 people are in custody. The remaining 1,200 are not locked up but could be arrested at any time.
"Each petitioner faces the risk of torture or death on the basis of residence in America and publicized criminal records. Many will also face persecution as a result of a particular religious affiliation," the judge said.
"While cost and efficiency in administering the immigration system are not illegitimate governmental concerns, such interests pale to the point of evaporation when weighed against the potential lethal harm petitioners may suffer," Goldsmith wrote.
There was no immediate response by the U.S. Justice Department, although lawyers at earlier court hearings signaled that an appeal was likely if Goldsmith granted an injunction. The judge first suspended deportations in June.
"This court and petitioners rely primarily on conditions in ISIS-controlled territory to establish harm. But no alien would be removed to that part of Iraq," William Silvis of the Justice Department said in a court filing last week.
The government has repeatedly told Goldsmith that he is exceeding his authority in immigration matters. Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the "vast majority" of Iraqis in the case have criminal records and are a threat to the public.