MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge in Minnesota ruled Tuesday that an Iraqi man who has been in immigration custody for more than two years must be released while he awaits a final order for removal from the U.S.
Farass Adnan Ali, 35, of Rochester, entered immigration custody in May 2017 and has been in consecutive immigration detention since July 2017. U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled Tuesday that the lengthy detention violates Ali's constitutional rights, and that Ali must be released within 30 days.
The U.S. Department of Justice can appeal. A spokesperson didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
Doty says Ali's current detention is based entirely on the attorney general's discretionary authority. After two years in immigration court, it's not clear when a final order of removal will be issued.
"Simply put, there appears to be no end in sight for Ali's removal proceeding," Doty wrote. He also added: "Under the circumstances presented, the court concludes that his further detention cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny."
Ian Bratlie, an attorney for Ali, said the decision is "a firm reminder that immigrants have rights and the judiciary will protect them." Bratlie said he got to tell Ali the news over the phone and his client "literally screamed in joy."
Kerry McGuire, a staff attorney at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said it's not unheard of for someone to be in detention for two years because in immigration cases, the attorney general has discretion to hold an individual as long as their case is active.
Ali came to the U.S. in 2014 legally as a refugee from Turkey and became a lawful permanent resident in July 2015. According to court documents, he was arrested in 2016 for fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dismissed, but the arrest led to an immigration review.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials took Ali into custody in May 2017, alleging that when he completed his immigration forms, he concealed his service in the Saddam Hussein regime's elite Republican Guard. Bratlie told The Associated Press that Ali made a mistake on his immigration form, but disclosed his military service on his refugee application.
In addition, the FBI said Ali would be considered a national security threat, alleging that content on his social media accounts showed him making or considering making weapons and commenting favorably about the Islamic State's activity in the Levant and North Africa.
Doty noted in his Tuesday order that Ali hasn't been designated as a terrorist or criminally charged.
"At the end of the day, when they look at the issues, there is nothing there. It's been sensationalized ... it's absurd," Bratlie said of the national security allegations.
This story has been corrected to note that Ali is awaiting a final order for removal.