ACLU Files Motion Accusing ICE Officers of Threats and Coercion Against Iraqi Detainees

The ACLU says federal immigration officers are threatening and harassing detainees.

The ACLU of Michigan wants a Detroit judge to order immigration authorities to stop coercive tactics against Iraqi immigrants in its custody. The immigrants face deportation orders for crimes – usually committed years ago.

The ACLU says the federal immigration officers are threatening and harassing the detainees. They say the officers want the detainees to say, in writing, that they want to return to Iraq. According to the motion filed by the ACLU, the officers tell the detainees if they don’t sign the document, they will be criminally prosecuted and detained indefinitely. The ACLU goes on to explain that Iraq appears to only take in nationals that affirm they want to be in the country.

“You can’t make it a crime to say I want to be with my family,” says Miriam Aukerman, an ACLU attorney. She says many detainees are Christians who face religious persecution or other retribution if they return.

“It’s incredibly coercive,” she says. “It’s incredibly damaging to these individuals. It preys on their fears, on what they face, being locked up away from their families.”

Aukerman says multiple detainees have already signed the document. She says the ACLU wants the judge to make sure they can see their clients so they can review the document with them and make sure they actually want to return to Iraq, if they signed it.

“The detainees are making decisions based on threats and coercion rather than being fully informed,” she says. “So we need to make sure we have access to our clients to counter this misinformation and abuse with accurate information.”

The judge will hold an emergency hearing on the motion Monday.


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.