Iraqi Christians Seeking Asylum Met With Jail Time in the U.S.

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Christine Kim Aug 18, 2015 07:28 PM EDT
Violence in Iraq (Photo : Ronald Shaw Jr.)
20 Chaldean Christians from Iraq are being held at a prison in California for attempting to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S., according to a humanitarian group.

The group of 20 Chaldean Christians had come to the U.S. seeking asylum, but were caught at the border without proper documentation. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) are holding the group at the Otay Detention Center in San Diego, where they have been detained for the last six months while their requests for asylum are processing.

Spokesman for the local Chaldean community and the Minority Humanitarian Foundation Mark Arabo says that the 20 Christians have relatives in San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“All we’re asking for is for them to be released to their families,” Arabo said. “These are people who escaped a Christian genocide only to be detained for months, with little or no hope of being released to their families.”

He also told the Christian Post, “It’s clear our border is open to everyone except Christians.”

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement that the decision on who is released is based on various factors, including criminal history, immigration history, and level of threat to public safety.

“Given ICE’s limited detention resources and the agency’s policy of holding those who are public safety threats or flight risks, the vast majority of foreign nationals arrested by ICE are, in fact, released under supervision while their cases are pending,” the statement said.

Demonstrators from the local Chaldean community held a vigil and a protest outside the detention center on Thursday, July 30.

Arabo, who was present at the service, said to the Christian Post that this was “our way of telling our Christian brothers and sisters that they will not be forgotten.”

“We’re going to protest. We’re going to pray for the administration and the officials to open up their hearts and minds to the victims of genocide. We’re not going to stop and we’re going to hold them accountable,” he said, according to CBN News.