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Judge Orders US to Free 100 Iraqis Held for Deportation

FILE - Family members of detainees line up to enter the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Mich., June 21, 2017.

A U.S. federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to free about 100 Iraqi immigrants it has been holding for more than six months for deportation.

Judge Mark Goldsmith chided the government for what he called its ignoble behavior and for making false statements in the case.

"Families have been shattered," Goldsmith said, and ordered authorities to release them within 30 days unless officials can find a strong reason to keep them detained.

The judge also said he would announce sanctions against the government in a separate ruling.

There has been no comment from the Justice Department.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been representing the Iraqis, said the government must be held accountable.

The Trump administration last year began rounding up Iraqis with criminal records who had been allowed to live in the United States or overstayed their visas.

Eight Iraqis were deported before Baghdad decided it did not want to take back any more.

Goldsmith said a U.S. immigration official had signed a document declaring that Iraq agreed to accept more of its deported citizens, but the judge wrote Tuesday that "there does not appear to be a clear way forward to repatriate Iraqi nationals at this time."

Some of the detained Iraqis have said they fear being persecuted if they are forced to go back.