Pence meets with Chaldean chamber to discuss halting deportations

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Beth LeBlanc The Detroit News
Troy — Vice President Mike Pence met Tuesday with the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce ahead of a Troy rally to discuss possible relief from deportations for some Iraqi nationals.

The meeting comes as the White House explores ways to make good on a promise President Donald Trump made in Warren in late January, when he indicated he would offer relief for Iraqi nationals who have been fighting deportation for nearly three years.

Chamber President Martin Manna said he spoke at length to Pence about the issue and thanked him for the work “being done to help promote religious freedom in Iraq.”

Vice President Mike Pence greets a campaign rally Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Detroit Marriott Troy hotel. He also met with Metro Detroit Chaldean chamber officials about the deporting immigrants.
David Guralnick / The Detroit News
“I provided a memo and some proposed solutions,” Manna said of the plan to end the Iraqi national deportations. “I told them again the amount of anxiety these families are facing and hopefully we can resolve this issue soon.

“They said they are working on it and hope to have some resolution soon on the matter,” Manna said. 

Trump’s January announcement followed a discussion on Air Force One with U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, a Midland Republican who introduced a bill last year with U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, to halt the deportations. Moolenaar also was present Tuesday to greet Pence as he arrived on Air Force Two in Lansing.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to end the detention of roughly 1,400 Iraqis nationally, including 114 from Michigan, who had been detained during Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids in 2017.

Supporters of the Iraqi nationals have argued that most were born in America and wouldn’t survive long in Iraq, which has been wracked by sectarian warfare after President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops in 2011. There are about 5,000 American troops in Iraq now to fight the Islamic State group.

Some nationals were released in December 2018 following a ruling by Detroit U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith who said ICE should not be able to indefinitely detain the nationals.

Some cases in the class action lawsuit also can be fought individually through immigration court, but many of the individuals don’t have court dates until January 2021 or 2022.

Iraqi detainees who have served six months do not remain in detention, but lawyers say government officials are trying to deport them before their cases make it through the court system.

Manna said he first met with Trump about the issue in late October, but “the challenge has always been getting this back in front of him.”

Manna said he told Pence he hoped to soon see “the president’s actual actions so deportations are halted or some sort of relief is granted.”

Moolenaar told Trump in January “how rough it’s has been” for the “wonderful Iraqi community in Michigan” and “a lot of Christians all over the world,” Trump said Jan. 30.

“… We talked about it long and hard on the flight, and we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to keep people who have been good to this country out of harm’s way,” Trump said about offering extensions to stay in the U.S.

“A lot of people in Michigan have been asking for that,” he said.

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.