A federal judge in the US has halted deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqis, many of them Christians, who argued they would face persecution if expelled from the country.
Some of the 1,400 Iraqis have faced deportation orders for years, even decades, but Iraq's refusal to accept them allowed them to remain in the US, Efe news reported.
Their situation, however, changed in March when Iraq agreed to receive them following a deal sealed by President Donald Trump.
Although most of the 1,400 remain at large, immigration officials arrested 199 of them in June, largely in Detroit (Michigan) and Nashville (Tennessee), with the intention of deporting them immediately.
According to the US authorities, they committed serious crimes, ranging from homicides to crimes related to drugs or weapons.
Those arrested, however, filed a joint lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the country's leading civil rights organisation, to halt their deportation.
They claimed that because of their status as minorities (as many of them are Chaldean Catholics and Iraqi Kurds) they would be at risk of persecution.
In his ruling, Judge Mark Goldsmith said deporting Iraqis would expose them to "a substantiated risk of death, torture or other serious persecution before their legal claims can be tested in a court".
However, the Justice Department, which has not yet reacted to the ruling, argued that Goldsmith, appointed by former President Barack Obama, has no power to make such decisions.