Over the weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 100 Iraqis, most of them Chaldean Christians, in Detroit-area raids. Chaldean Christians have considered this move an “utter betrayal” from the Trump administration, since the community mostly backed him in November and arguably gave him the pivotal victory in Michigan.
“The overall sense from the community is utter betrayal and confusion from a man who promised to help the Chaldean people,” Wisam Naoum, a finance lawyer-turned-entrepreneur and Chaldean Christian community leader, told PJ Media in an interview Thursday.
The U.S. government has formally declared that the Islamic State (ISIS) is carrying out a genocide against Chaldean Christians and other religious minorities. Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq had over 1.5 million Christians. Recent estimates put the number at 300,000. Sending Chaldean Christians back to Iraq amounts to a death sentence, a stunning betrayal for the very people who helped elect President Donald Trump.
“This is a conservative community that generally votes Republican,” Naoum added, noting that Donald Trump won Michigan by roughly 13,000 votes, and that there are over 150,000 Chaldean Christians in the Detroit area. The epicenter of this community, Macomb County, voted Republican for the first time since 2004, and arguably delivered the state to Trump.
“This community, since 2014, has been on the war footing,” Naoum added. “We had to fight ISIS, and the community galvanized to do what we could to send resources back to Northern Iraq to fight ISIS. We understood there was a direct failure by the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton to protect this ancient community,” which traces its roots all the way back to the ancient Assyrian empire.
“And now, in 2017, after we believe the guy who promises ‘I’m going to protect you guys in the homeland,’ we find ourselves in a two-front war, fighting ISIS … and the U.S. administration,” Naoum chillingly declared.
The Chaldean Christian emphasized that the “vast majority” of the people detained by ICE were not a present danger and did not come to America illegally. “You can’t get over from Iraq by crossing some border; they’re not swimming across the Atlantic,” he quipped.
In many cases, after immigrants serve their time for minor offenses, when they leave the prison they are forced to “sign away their green cards,” Naoum explained.
“Most of them have criminal records that are not important,” Richard Kent, an immigration lawyer who has accepted dozens of cases in the past day and who defended the Iraqi veteran Nahidh Shaou (who has received a temporary stay on his deportation), told PJ Media in an interview. Kent briefly mentioned many of the Iraqis he is defending in court.
“One fellow, 55 years old, flashed a gun in a road rage incident in 1978,” the lawyer explained. Since this man “flashed the gun at a city councilman, he got hit with a felony.”
Another immigrant was also seized for flashing a gun, this time when he was “surrounded by street urchins in the city of Detroit who were beating up his little brother.”
One Iraqi Christian had entered his ex-girlfriend’s living room without permission, begging on his knees for her to take him back. Decades later, he faces deportation for this case of home invasion.
One man was pegged for deportation because, at age 18, he had sex with his then-15-year-old girlfriend. Now, this married man with five children, who has been “harmless for 35 years,” has been arrested for deportation.
“I’ve got a few sexual assault people, some drug dealers, some convicted of assault with intent to kill,” Kent told PJ Media. Even so, he asked, “We don’t execute drug dealers in this country, so why should we be contracting this out to a third party?”
Some of these men “possessed the wrong kind of drug.” After being caught with cocaine, serving jail time, and being released, “all of a sudden, you’re being sent back to hell on Earth.”
In one particularly heartbreaking case, a desperate 38-year-old woman approached Nathan Kalasho, an Iraqi-American Christian activist in Michigan. This woman has a debilitating medical condition and requires bone marrow transplants from her uncle, also a Chaldean Christian. Nevertheless, the man has been detained and is slated for deportation, Politico reported.
“I’m filing papers to keep them off the plane,” Kent, the immigration lawyer, explained. “But it means nothing in the larger picture. What we’re really hoping for is a political solution,” that someone in the Trump administration would “figure out that stabbing your most important supporters in the back is not a great way to guarantee re-election.”
That hope for a political solution received a boost on Thursday afternoon, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit against ICE.
“Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties,” Kary Moss, executive director for the ACLU of Michigan, declared in a statement. “Our immigration policy shouldn’t amount to a death sentence for anyone.”
The ACLU class action includes at least one Muslim, as well as some converts to Christianity. Reportedly, Muslim groups have also lent a hand in the legal fight against deporting Chaldean Christians.
“It’s not like the Muslim community and the Chaldean Catholic community have been the best of friends over the years,” Naoum, the Chaldean entrepreneur, quipped. “But they sent aid, which I find to be the coolest thing about this.”
Deportations of Iraqis became possible earlier this year. In exchange for Iraq being removed from President Trump’s second travel ban, the Iraqi government agreed to accept deportees whom the United States wanted to send back.
After the raids, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen argued that the Iraqi nationals who had been arrested all “had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”
Even so, Chaldean activists argued that a criminal record does not merit a death sentence, and that most of those detained cannot even speak Arabic and have become Americans.
Kent, the immigration lawyer, explained that before 1996 deportation was a huge legal hurdle. Immigrants “had to do five hard years of prison” before they got deported. “Now, you get deported for anything more serious than drunk driving.”
“It’s a brutal system that’s gotten out of control,” he said.
Perhaps President Trump should listen to one of the groups that got him elected, and give some relief to this suffering population.