CWN - A federal court has blocked the plan of US immigration authorities to deport nearly 200 Iraqi natives, most of them Chaldean Christians, who were seized in raids in the Detroit area.

Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a 14-day stay on deportation proceedings, while he weighs a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU argues that the immigrants could face persecution if they are returned to Iraq. “US law prohibits the removal of individuals to countries where they would face a likelihood of persecution or torture,” the ACLU lawsuit stated. “Many of the Petitioners are Chaldean Christians, who are widely recognized as targets of brutal persecution in Iraq.”

Judge Goldsmith said that he would use the 14-stay to weigh the arguments in the case and decide whether a federal court—rather than an immigration court—has proper jurisdiction in the case. The judge said that the potential danger to the the immigrants if they are returned to Iraq “far outweighs any conceivable interest the government might have in the immediate enforcement of the removal orders.”

Most of the Iraqi immigrants who were rounded up in the Detroit area have lived in the US for decades, albeit without legal authorization. All have arrest records, although their supporters argue that few can be regarded as threats to public safety.

From Iraq, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako wrote to express his sympathy with the Christians who are facing possible deportation, and his hope for a solution that would preserve them from danger. He remarked that the situation points to the need for migrants to ensure that they have attained legal status.