Editorial: Slow down deportation of Iraqi nationals

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The Iraqi nationals being targeted by the Trump administration for deportation are not Iraqis. They’re Americans. They don’t belong in Iraq. They belong here.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, left, D-District 9, and U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-District 4, applaud one of the speakers during a press conference announcing a bi-partisan bill they cowrote that would provide a 2-year period of relief to Iraqi nationals facing deportation. The press conference was held at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield, Michigan on May 3, 2019. The bill would allow time for Iraqi nationals’ cases to be heard in the courts. Brandy Baker / Special to the Detroit News That message was conveyed this week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by an unlikely pairing of Michigan Congress members — Liberal Democratic Rep. Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township and conservative Republican Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland. The two are rightly urging the Trump administration to prevent the deportation or detention of the Iraqi nationals, whose numbers include Christians and other minorities who face certain persecution, and even death, if they are forcibly returned to Iraq. These are not strangers or intruders. Most have lived in this country for decades, some for their entire lives. They are our friends, neighbors and co-workers. The Congress members wrote the letter on word that the government is considering the deportation of 20 more Iraqi nationals, including some from Michigan. These are individuals who have been living in the country legally, but had committed other crimes. In most cases, they’ve already served their time for their offenses, and have returned to their communities as productive, law-abiding members. But by the administration’s strict reading of immigration law, they are eligible for deportation. They have no homes in Iraq, and many have no close relatives. Many came to the United States as refugees seeking protection from religious persecution. The threat to religious minorities in Iraq has not abated. Federal agents have swept up 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including 100 from Michigan, over the past year. It’s not known how many were deported before a federal district judge in Detroit blocked the removals in December. In April, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the deportation proceedings to resume. Levin and Moolenaar co-sponsored a bill to provide two years of relief from deportations for Iraqi nationals who have already been ordered to leave the country. That’s a reasonable step that would give the government time to determine if those targeted for deportation present an actual risk to the United States. If not, they should be allowed to stay. Most have families, jobs and businesses here. Booting them out serves no societal interest. There’s no need for such urgency in deporting the Iraqi nationals. Take the time to assess their individual cases. Rushing to deport those with established roots in this country for offenses that have already been paid for smacks of vindictiveness.