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ACLU, lawmakers weigh in on refugees who helped US troops facing deportation to Iraq

Abbas Al-Sokaini is one of 1,400 Iraqis currently detained and facing deportation, after President Trump agreed to take Iraq off his revised travel ban, on the condition that Iraq take back 1,400 nationals.

The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting to get a New Mexico man and political refugee out of an El Paso detention center.

KFOX14 Investigates first brought you the man's story last week.

The ACLU of New Mexico has joined a class-action lawsuit to keep 1,400 Iraqi refugees from being sent back to the war-torn country, including two men from New Mexico who have been legal residents for more than 20 years.

“Most of these people face probable torture, persecution or death if they were to be returned to Iraq,” said Micah McCoy, a spokesperson for the ACLU of New Mexico.

The ACLU’s lawsuit argues that it's illegal under U.S. and international law to deport someone to a place where they face these types of outcomes.

But it's a real threat for Abbas Al-Sokaini.

He’s one of 1,400 Iraqis currently detained and facing deportation, after President Trump agreed to take Iraq off his revised travel ban, on the condition that Iraq take back 1,400 nationals.

Abbas and another man from New Mexico helped U.S. troops in the first Gulf War and had to flee the country.

“In many of these cases, these are people who have risked their lives to support U.S. troops. Now after that, we are repaying by potentially deporting them into a situation where they could lose their life,” said McCoy.

El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke couldn't comment on the case specifically but weighed in on the policy, since Abbas is detained is here in El Paso.

"This administration's policy not only jeopardizes the lives of those who've helped us in our wars, it also tells those whose help we'll need in the future -- as guides, translators and security for our troops -- that it might not be worth the risk."

The ACLU says the 1,400 Iraqis were singled out because they were convicted of some type of offense, mostly minor, and in many cases, decades old.

“Some of these convictions are more than 20 years old. These people have been living peacefully in the United States. They are raising families,” said McCoy.

In Abbas' case, he pleaded guilty to a drug charge 17 years ago, served six months probation and hasn't had any legal trouble since then.

“It has a real profound affect on thousands of families,” said McCoy.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall also weighed in on the policy of detaining and deporting refugees.

"In a short time, President Trump's travel ban has caused chaos in our immigration and refugee programs that is having tragic consequences for families here and abroad. Even those who served our country face deportation,” said Udall.

Right now, the ACLU of New Mexico said it's won a stay for Al-Sokaini, which expires on the 25th of the month. They are working on getting a longer stay, so that all of the Iraqi refugees will get a chance to plead their case in front of a judge.

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