About 114 Chaldeans, as well as Muslims, from Metro Detroit await deportation to Iraq, a genocide region where the Chaldean people have been targeted and persecuted by ISIS. This act follows Iraq's agreement with the U.S. to receive deported nationals.
The reason the U.S. is sending them to war-torn Iraq: criminal records that cost them green cards and citizenship, a current status that none of the men deny, says Nathan Kalasho, an advocate for immigrant families who runs Madison Heights Charter School in Detroit.
“These are people who mainly came on visas, green cards, or had green cards that were revoked,” Kalasho said in video. “They don’t want to be fugitives.”
Many of the men detained have been here since childhood, family members said.
Mindy Belz, senior editor for WORLD magazine and author of They Say We Are Infidels, said, "It's important to emphasis these are old immigrant communities." They are committed to civic involvement, and community leaders are successful and well-educated. The sweep was unexpected, leaving the communities shaken and confused.
"Immigration law is pretty well established and pretty clear." But in this case, the government did not make it clear to these community leaders how they should help members of their communities secure citizenship. Belz said that while it's to be expected that the men were not notified ahead of time that they would be deported, it's troubling that community leaders were not told. "People were told they would be ok."
Astounded by the thoughtlessness and injustice of the situation, Nina Shea, international human-rights lawyer and director of Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, said, “It’s hard to believe that this was a rational and proper application of the president’s policy.”
“As a Trump supporter, my first thought was, this is a sabotage against his policies of deporting criminals,” she said.
Shea continued that Baghdad has no thriving Christian community. Nineveh’s airport is closed, and Mosul will not be free from ISIS by the time the detained men depart from the U.S. The towns are "in shambles" and haven’t been completely de-mined. There is no economy or food. Refugee camps have limited resources, and the churches that aid them are running out of money. Shea said that, just this week, she worked with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL.) to discuss the present condition of Iraq.
“Where could they possibly be sending them to?” she asked. “It is a genocide region.” She mentioned this fact was repeated by both the president--at the Evangelical National Prayer Breakfast--and vice president.
“We don’t even do that to Gitmo detainees,” she said.
According to the article "Christian Voters Triggered Trump's Win" in National Catholic Register, The Chaldean community in Macomb County, a county previously favoring President Obama in the 2008 elections, helped President Trump win the election, motivated by the plight of the Christians in Iraq and Syria, and by their pro-life beliefs.
“I have never seen the enthusiasm we had this year to go out and vote,” Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in the article.
Belz visited the Iraqi community in Detroit this year, and said the Chaldean communities have made appeals since January to Homeland Security, saying that they wanted to work out the issues of documentation.
Now families are saying they regret supporting President Trump in the 2016 elections. "Over 20,000 Chaldean voters voted for Donald Trump," Faye Faraj, whose brother is detained, said. "But why, Mr. President, why? Why do you wanna take my brothers away from my family?"
After ICE made a sweep of the Chaldean community in Detroit, it released a statement that the men have had “criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”
The severity of offenses varies from petty to violent, and the consequence of returning to Iraq as Christians is too great a price for some of the crimes committed decades ago. Each man has served time and “paid their debt to society," Kalasho said.
Belz said that the Christians seem to be targeted by the Iraqi government, as the majority of the travel waivers that they issued were to the Christians in Detroit.
“This is a political problem," Shea said. “It’s a fundamental justice problem. Some of these people were sick, some of them had due process issues. It needs to be reexamined.”
According to the Detroit News, The ACLU filed a lawsuit over the weekend to stop the deportation and are waiting for a hearing.