Don’t send Chaldeans back to persecution in Iraq, advocates plead
DETROIT, Mich. – After a federal judge again halted the deportation of over 1,000 Chaldeans from the U.S., advocates for the detainees insisted their deportations should be stopped until conditions in Iraq improve.
“We’re just hopeful that people continue to pray for these that are being detained, and understanding that this is a humanitarian crisis and that the administration steps in and puts a halt to these deportations,” Martin Manna of the Chaldean Community Foundation told CNA.
On July 6, U.S. district court judge Mark Goldsmith extended by two weeks a halt on the deportations of Iraqi nationals from around the country.
He wrote that “there is good cause to extend the stay order beyond July 10, 2017. The Court orders that the stay of removal for all members of the class, both original members and those added by way of the expanded definition, shall now expire on July 24, 2017 at 11:59 p.m., unless otherwise ordered by the Court.”
Advocates for the detainees insisted that the stay of deportation was important, as they need extra time to prove to a judge their credible fear of persecution if deported back to Iraq.
Beginning on June 11, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement began rounding up Iraqi nationals living in the Detroit metropolitan area, at their homes in front of their families or in public places. The Chaldeans, mostly Christian, had come to the U.S. legally, and were expected to complete a five-year process for eventual citizenship.
However, the Iraqis either failed to complete the process by applying for green cards, or committed a misdemeanour or felony which disqualified them from eventual citizenship. They received a final order of deportation from a federal judge.
Many of the crimes committed were decades ago, Martin Manna of the Chaldean Community Foundation insisted, and the Chaldeans served their time in jail and have been responsible members of the community since then, regularly checking in with ICE as they are required to do.
One of the detainees is a woman who came to the U.S. as a 5 year-old and now has three children who are U.S. citizens. She received her final order of removal in 1986 and had committed misdemeanour fraud, serving probation time and being released “on an order of supervision.”
She had been “complying with this order,” Manna said, yet now she is set to be deported to Iraq.
Iraq had initially refused to accept the Chaldeans, but recently agreed to do so as a condition of the U.S. removing Iraq from the list of countries on President Donald Trump’s travel ban. In that executive order on national security, President Trump had listed several countries from which nationals could not enter the U.S. except with certain diplomatic visas.
Since June 11, over 1,000 Iraqi nationals from all over the U.S. have been detained by ICE and slated for deportation to Iraq.
U.S. bishops have advocated for a halt to the deportation of the Chaldeans, at least until they would no longer have a credible fear of persecution in Iraq.
The situation for Christians in Iraq has deteriorated significantly since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and fell sharply with the rise of ISIS in 2014. While an estimated 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003, less than 200,000 live there now. There were over 340 churches in Iraq in 2003, and only just over 40 today.