A federal judge has ordered that a Rochester man held by immigration for 18 months must be released within 30 days.

U.S. District Judge David S. Doty said immigration officials have held Farass Ali for an “unreasonably long” time, in violation of his constitutional right to due process. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed on Ali’s behalf, asking for his release.

Ali is an Iraqi native who came here as a refugee in 2014 and gained lawful permanent resident status. Federal officials allege he didn’t disclose service in the Iraqi Republican Guard and lied to investigators about his social media accounts, and thus was a “removable alien.”

Ali has been in custody for 18 months – several spent in solitary – awaiting the outcome of his immigration case.

“We are pleased by the federal court’s ruling, which orders Farass Ali’s release from custody within 30 days and rejects the federal government’s argument that indefinite immigration detention is constitutional,” says ACLU-MN attorney Ian Bratlie, who works with our Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project.

“Ali is a refugee from Iraq who now is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.,” Bratlie said. “Our government already has held Ali for 18 months, an unconscionably long time period. We agree with the court’s decision that that is ‘unreasonably long’ and is a clear violation of Ali’s constitutional right to due process.

“Judge Doty’s decision is a strong reminder to ICE and Sherburne County Sheriff Brott that they cannot simply hold people, and it will help other people in custody who challenge their detention,” Bratlie said.

Ali will be released from ICE detention within 30 days. He remains in removal proceedings and will have to appear at any future hearings. He’ll be represented in those immigration proceedings by Advocates for Human Rights.