A federal judge has halted the deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during immigration sweeps across the US this month until at least 10 July.
The move by District Judge Mark Goldsmith expands a stay he imposed last week that only protected 114 detainees from the Detroit area.
Judge Goldsmith sided with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union who filed an amended complaint on Saturday seeking to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from deporting Iraqis from anywhere in the US.
The ACLU argued those being deported could face persecution, torture, or death because many were Chaldean Catholics, Sunni Muslims, or Iraqi Kurds and that the groups were recognised as targets of ill-treatment in Iraq.
Judge Goldsmith agreed with the ACLU on the grave consequences deportees may face, writing in his seven-page opinion and order that: "Such harm far outweighs any interest the government may have in proceeding with the removals immediately."
On Thursday, he ordered a stay in the Michigan Iraqis' deportation for at least two weeks while he decided whether he had jurisdiction over the merits of deporting immigrants who could face physical danger in their countries of origin.
He expanded his stay yesterday to the broader class of Iraqi nationals nationwide, saying it applies to the removal of all Iraqi nationals in the US with final orders of removal who have been or will be detained by ICE.
There are 1,444 Iraqi nationals who have final deportation orders against them, although only 199 of them were detained as part of a nationwide sweep by immigration authorities, federal prosecutors said in court.
Those detained had convictions for serious crimes, including rape and kidnapping, ICE said.
The judge also said his stays were designed to give detainees time to find legal representation to appeal against their deportation orders, and to give him time to weigh the question of his jurisdiction.