U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear bid by Iraqis to avoid deportation

FILE PHOTO: The building of the U.S. Supreme Court is pictured in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Will Dunham/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear a bid by a large group of Iraqis convicted of crimes in the United States to prevent imminent deportation to their home country where they say they could face persecution and torture.

The justices let stand a lower court’s 2018 ruling that the federal judiciary lacked the authority to stop the planned deportations. The Iraqis had argued that the U.S. Constitution’s so-called suspension clause - relating to a person’s ability to challenge confinement by the government - empowered courts to review their claims.

The case involves approximately 1,400 Iraqis in the United States who were ordered deported years or even decades ago because of criminal convictions. They were able to remain in the United States because Iraq had refused to repatriate them. The diplomatic situation changed in 2017, however, when Iraq struck a deal with the United States to repatriate its citizens.

The U.S. government then conducted raids and detained hundreds of the Iraqis as part of a larger push by President Donald Trump to increase immigration enforcement.

The Iraqis, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the U.S. government in federal court in Detroit to try to halt the deportations.

The Iraqis, many of whom are Christian, have said face likely torture and death in Iraq. They wanted U.S. courts to halt the deportations so they could reopen their cases before immigration judges and present new evidence that they should be allowed to stay because they faced possible torture.

A judge in Detroit ruled for the Iraqis in 2018, but the Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

In another case raising similar issues, the Supreme Court on June 25 enhanced the ability of the U.S. government to quickly deport illegal immigrants including asylum seekers with limited judicial review.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Will Dunham