U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles certified a class of 64 individuals who are seeking to reopen their deportation cases and petition for asylum after allegedly becoming the targets of al-Shabab, an ally of the al-Qaida terrorist organization that is trying to undermine Somalia’s government and views Somalis who have resided in Western nations as “enemies of their cause who must be summarily executed,” according to court documents.
Judge Gayles determined that the class of Somalis — down from 92 individuals after 28 putative class members opted out of the litigation — present common allegations that they were shackled, forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves and were physically or verbally abused by immigration authorities as part of a 23-hour journey to the east African country in December that made it as far as Dakar, Senegal, before returning to the United States, according to Thursday’s order.
“The putative class members have raised common issues of law in this action as to whether due process entitles them to an opportunity to move their immigration cases to assert claims for asylum, withholding of removal or relief under the Convention Against Torture based on changed conditions,” Judge Gayles wrote.
The federal government had contended that the named plaintiffs — Farah Ibrahim, Ibrahim Musa, Khalid Abdallah Mohmed, Ismail Jimcale, Abdiwali Ahmed Siyad, Ismael Abdirashed Mohamed and Khadar Abdi Mohamed — were inadequate representatives because some of the Somalis who were on the plane may not want to reopen their cases or may wish to be removed to either Somalia or another country, according to court documents.
Judge Gayles rejected the government’s argument, noting that the named plaintiffs have taken efforts to allow those who do not wish to be a part of the litigation to opt out, according to Thursday’s order.
The Somalis contend that they should be granted the chance to reopen their deportation cases on the basis that their prospects in their home country have changed as a result of the media coverage directed to the plane incident. They noted that U.S. immigration law prohibits the deportation of individuals to countries where they would “face a likelihood of persecution or torture.”
The court paused their deportations in December.
Counsel for the parties could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The Somalis are represented by Romy Lerner of University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic.
The government is represented by Dexter A. Lee of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The case is Ibrahim et al. v. Acosta et al., case number 1:17-cv-24574, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
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