Michigan lawmakers pen letter on deportation of dozens of Chaldean-American immigrants

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Dozens of Metro Detroit immigrants rounded up during ICE sweeps
By Derick Hutchinson
A woman watches as dozens of people are detained by U.S. ICE agents June 11, 2017 in Detroit. (WDIV)
DETROIT – Michigan lawmakers wrote a letter Wednesday to the Department of Homeland Security regarding the dozens of Chaldean-American immigrants who were arrested and taken to a detention center after Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweeps in Metro Detroit.

Representatives Sander Levin (MI-09), John Conyers (MI-13), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) and John Moolenaar (MI-04), were included on the letter, which requested a copy of the U.S. government’s repatriation agreement with Iraq, and for information about safety measures planned for the individuals.

READ: Families react to sudden deportations of dozens of immigrants in Detroit

The lawmakers said most members of the Michigan Chaldean community are Catholic Christians originally from Iraq and, as a religious minority, face persecution and possibly torture if returned to Iraq.

You can read the full letter below.

Dear Secretary Kelly:

On behalf of our constituents, we are writing most urgently and with grave concern about a large number of Iraqi-American immigrants who are being placed in detention and are awaiting removal.

Individuals, most of whom are Chaldean but include Muslims as well, will be placed in great danger if deported to Iraq. Because of the horrors perpetrated against the Catholic Chaldean population in Iraq, these individuals could be stranded in a country in which they are subject to extreme jeopardy.

The vast majority of these individuals came to the U.S. legally long ago but are subject to deportation now because they violated their visa restrictions by committing crimes of various degrees, or for other reasons. Those that committed crimes have, to the best of our knowledge, served any sentence and completed any parole. These individuals have put down roots. Many have married, helped raise families, worked hard, opened small businesses, and paid their taxes.

Most have no relatives in Iraq because they, or the families that brought them to America as children, left the country decades ago. The traditional Chaldean areas in Iraq have been uprooted, destroying much of what would have been left of “home” for the Chaldeans.

The State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Iraq describes the dangerous plight of Chaldeans, and Iraqis of other ethnic and religious groups, who face the real risk of kidnapping and torture by ISIS and other terrorist groups. High-level officials from both parties agree that genocide is being committed against Christians in Iraq and Syria. Secretary Kerry said so in March 2016, reaffirmed by Vice President Pence just last month. Returning these individuals to the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq violates the due process that these individuals must be provided. They are in the United States and, as a result, are entitled to due process, despite not being U.S. citizens. See Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001).

Until recently, Iraq refused to accept these individuals who have few, if any, ties to Iraq, no Iraqi identification, or Iraqi travel documents. In addition, most do not speak the language. The fact that Iraq has now agreed to accept them does not address that deporting these individuals can send them into grave danger and perhaps death.

We accordingly request that you immediately send us a copy of the U.S. Government’s agreement with Iraq so we in Congress can review its terms, and request that you inform us as to what specific measures are provided to ensure these individuals’ safety and all other relevant information.

Until we in Congress can review all aspects of the agreement reached with Iraq, and the referenced safety measures, we urge you to hold off removal of these individuals to Iraq.

We look forward to a prompt answer to all of the requested information. Thank you in advance for your urgent attention to this matter.

The Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan sent Local 4 a statement on the deportations, which you can read below.

“Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM) is deeply concerned regarding the Sunday timing and necessity of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweeps and arrests in metro Detroit’s Chaldean community and others. We are particularly troubled by the possibility of Chaldeans being deported back to Iraq, a country in which persecution of Christians through intimidation, violence, kidnapping, and murder has lessened only because there are so few Christians remaining there. CCSEM recognizes and respects the need for law enforcement among citizens as well as documented and undocumented immigrants and refugees, especially in situations where individuals have committed violent and serious drug-related felonies. However; enforcement targeting immigrant and refugee communities appears uneven, inconsistent, and with little to no substantive explanation from the federal authorities regarding the criminal records of those detained or how these sweeps make communities safer. In addition, CCSEM wonders why the authorities are evidently targeting individuals who may have criminal records from offenses committed decades ago who apparently have had no further brushes with the law. CCSEM is collaborating with other agencies active in metro Detroit’s immigration and refugee communities to ascertain what, if anything, can be done to assist family members experiencing the detention of a loved one. Unfortunately, like the loved ones of the detainees and many other immigration and resettlement agencies in metro Detroit, CCSEM has no information specific to the individuals detained in the ICE sweeps conducted this past Sunday.”