Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Detroit ordered hearings for hundreds of Iraqi detainees being held by the Department of Homeland Security while fighting deportation.
U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said in a ruling Tuesday the 274 Iraqi nationals who have been in prison for months should be given bond hearings and said unless they pose a threat to the public, they should be able to return to their lives while proceedings continue.
"Our legal tradition rejects warehousing human beings while their legal rights are being determined, without an opportunity to persuade a judge that the norm of monitored freedom should be followed," Goldsmith wrote in the court order. "The principle is familiar to all in the context of the criminal law, where even a heinous criminal -- whether a citizen or not -- enjoys the right to seek pre-trial release."
Most of the detainees are Christians, who may face violence and persecution upon their return to Iraq.
Margo Schlanger, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said detaining people for months with no end in sight is unconstitutional.
"We have a Constitution that says liberty is the default, and the government has to have a really good reason to put you in detention, and they don't have that here," Schlanger said.
Homeland Security officials will meet with lawyers for the detainees next week to work out details.