Iraqi refugees to be deported, ICE says

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12 Iraqi Chaldean Christians who fled ISIS will be deported in the following weeks.
By Tatiana Sanchez
About 50 Chaldean Christians, including Aamer Moshi, foreground, hold a prayer vigil outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Otay Mesa detention facility, protesting the detaining of 27 undocumented Iraqi immigrants seeking asylum. Howard Lipin/Twitter: @hlipin

Twelve of the 27 Iraqi Christians being detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility are set to be deported in coming weeks, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Monday.

An immigration judge ordered their removal in the last two weeks, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said. She declined to provide specific information about why the immigrants are being deported and where they will be taken, citing privacy issues.

Typically, unauthorized immigrants who face deportation are returned to the country where they were living before entering the United States. It’s likely that most of the Chaldeans will be deported to such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, known to provide safe haven to Iraqi refugees.

A group of 27 Iraqi Christians — also known as Chaldeans — has been detained in Otay for about six months as their immigration cases proceed, according to local activists and family members.

The Chaldeans were detained by immigration authorities after they attempted to cross the U.S. border through the San Ysidro Port of Entry without documentation several months ago.

Thousands of Chaldeans have fled Iraq in recent years, escaping persecution in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS.

Lundon Attisha, a local Chaldean activist, said he and other leaders were advised by the attorneys representing the detainees not to comment on the issue.

The pending deportation of these 12 detainees comes as two Iraqi women were arrested on suspicion of fraudulently seeking asylum in the U.S., a federal crime that comes with a penalty of up to five years in custody and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The women, who are now in the custody of U.S. Marshals, were previously detained at the Otay facility, Mack said.

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations arrested Valentina Adil Slewa Zori on Friday, accusing her of falsifying information in an asylum application, including omission of her German citizenship.

Zori also admitted to fabricating information about threats made to her family and claims that her brother was kidnapped by a man associated with the Islamic State, the complaint said.

In an interview Aug. 3, Zori — who on occasion went by the name Valentina Adel Mroge — admitted to living in Germany since 1997, where she went to school and worked as a hairstylist.

“Zori indicated that since she was a child, she wanted to come to the U.S.,” the complaint said.

She’ll be deported to Germany.

Douglas Nelson, Zori’s immigration attorney, declined to comment.

Another complaint filed July 28 in U.S. District Court in San Diego alleges that Reta Marrogi — who at times has gone by the name of Zina Hornes Oraha Delli — falsified information in an asylum application and omitted the fact that she previously had been granted refugee asylum in Germany.

Under a question in the application asking if she or any family members had ever received legal status in another country, “the defendant answered ‘No,’ which the defendant then and there knew was false,” the complaint said.

Marrogi’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation — a Detroit-based organization that provides support for Iraqi refugees — said applying for refugee asylum can take several years.

Immigrants must petition the United Nations for refugee status. After that, applicants must complete a standard interview, but interview dates often come with a five- to seven- year wait time, according to Manna.

Upon completion of the interview, applicants are redirected to a country that’s willing to accept them. The U.N. typically admits up to 7,500 Iraqi refugees into the United States each year, he said.

“We’re talking a few thousand a year that are coming to the U.S. But there’s more than a million that are trying to find permanent residency,” he said. • (619) 293-1380
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