Michigan congressmen’s bill would stop deportation of Iraqi immigrants

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Niraj Warikoo Detroit Free Press.Jeremiah Suleiman, of Sterling Heights holds a sign among dozens during a rally to stop the deportation of Iraqi-American immigrants outside Patrick V. McNamara Federal building on

Friday, June 16, 2017 in Detroit. An ACLU lawsuit seeks to block the possible deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals around the country. Elaine Cromie , Detroit Free Press Two Michigan congressmen, one Democrat and one Republican, introduced a House bill this week that would block the deportations of more than 1,000 Iraqis. U.S. House Reps. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, and John Moolenaar, R-Midland, introduced the bipartisan legislation Tuesday titled ‘Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act.’ The bill calls upon Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop any deportations of the Iraqi immigrants, most of whom have criminal records and had final orders of removal. “Conditions in Iraq have worsened dramatically since these removal orders were entered,” reads the bill. “Many Iraqis with removal orders will face persecution, torture, or death if removed.” The bill is cosponsored by 12 of Michigan’s 14 U.S. House representatives, including all its Democrats and all but one Republican. There are nine other cosponsors in the House from other states, including California. Many of the 1,000 Iraqis who face deportation are Chaldean, Iraqi Catholics who have faced discrimination and violence in recent years in Iraq. They were legal immigrants and some have lived in the U.S. for decades, but because of their criminal records, are eligible for removal. “This is about fairness and this is about humanity,” Levin said in a statement Wednesday. “Iraqi nationals with orders for removal must have the time it takes to have their cases heard individually in immigration court. Numerous Iraqi nationals, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution for their religion, their ethnicity or their ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will.” Levin said his 9th District has the highest percentage of Iraqi immigrants, according to Census data. Metro Detroit has the largest Iraqi immigrant population in the U.S, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In 2017, ICE detained hundreds of Iraqi nationals across the U.S., including many in Michigan, after it said the U.S. had reached a deal with the Iraqi government to return Iraqi nationals with criminal records. The criminal histories of the Iraqi detainees ranged from marijuana possession to more serious crimes like homicide. More: Iraqis face deportation after Appeals Court rules against them More: In Trump victory, appeals court says Iraqis may be deported The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) then filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Iraqi nationals, saying that the Iraqis had no idea they would be later deported to Iraq when their criminal cases were being adjudicated. A federal judge in Detroit, Mark Goldsmith, later ruled in favor of the Iraqis, blocking their removal, but that decision was overturned in December by the federal appeals court in Ohio. In April, a full panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court refused to reconsider, opening the door for their deportations. Some of them were released on bond after Goldsmith’s rulings. Attorneys are now trying to get their cases reheard in immigration courts. On Friday, Levin and Moolenaar joined Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, and Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, at a news conference at the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner in West Bloomfield, to announce the upcoming legislation. Moolenaar said that Chaldean Christians living in Michigan came here years ago to escape persecution similar to what we see happening now to Christians around the world. The homes and towns that many left behind in Iraq have been destroyed, and they have no family to return to. If they were to return they would face persecution because of their faith.” The bill was praised by Chaldean leaders in metro Detroit. Ikval Marogi, right, of Warren and Elham Mona, center, of Sterling Heights listen to a speaker as families of Iraqi immigrants from metro Detroit who were detained by ICE gather outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit on Thursday August 31, 2017. Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press “We are grateful for the bipartisan support we have received to aid those at-risk of deportation, especially the leadership from our Michigan members” of Congress, Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, told the Free Press. “This historic bill will provide relief to many Chaldeans that have no family connection to Iraq, and will likely be persecuted if sent back. The bill will give them time and the due process needed to win their individual cases.” ICE did not comment Wednesday, but reiterated its earlier comment after the 6th Circuit decision ruled in their favor. Nathalie Asher, the acting executive associate director for ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations, said in December that the court’s “decision vindicates ICE’s efforts to remove these aliens, many of whom had criminal convictions, to Iraq. These aliens had fully litigated their cases, receiving the due process required by statute and the Constitution, and the court of appeals was right to conclude that the lower court erred by temporarily barring ICE from removing these aliens and requiring that they receive bond hearings.” ICE has also said previously that the Iraqis were detained because they pose safety threats. “The operation in this region was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested,” Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Detroit, said in a statement in 2017 defending the detentions of the Iraqis. “The vast majority of those arrested in the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases.” The congressional bill introduced this week would not automatically block the deportations for all of the 1,000-plus Iraqi nationals. The bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security to deport Iraqis who pose “specific and significant harm to the security of the United States.”