US immigration sweep targets Iraqi Christians in Detroit

The Sunday raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement came after the USA negotiated a deal with Iraq to take back Iraqi nationals convicted of crimes.

Kalasho called the sweep "disgusting", "frustrating" and "confusing" because the detainees, believed to be mostly Christians, known as Chaldeans, likely face severe consequences, perhaps death, upon returning to Iraq from ISIS. Their population in Iraq has dwindled as hundreds of thousands have fled war and violence over the decades. Roughly 100 people protested Sunday at a Detroit detention center, many expressing their concern for the arrestees' safety.

"As a result of recent negotiations between the USA and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal", ICE stated.

USA immigration authorities are arresting Iraqi immigrants ordered deported for serious crimes, the US government said on Monday, after Iraq agreed to accept USA deportees as part of a deal to remove it from President Donald Trump's travel ban.

Many in the Detroit-area Chaldean community had voted for Trump, in hopes that he would crack down on the Islamic State, which has massacred religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. "To my capacity, as a permanent member of the church synod, I would like to formally state that this is NOT true, and that was no signed document or any type of agreement made with the Iraqi government or anyone else, that would allow the deportation of Chaldeans to Iraq", he stated.

The moves come after the USA government dropped Iraq from a list of countries targeted by a revised version of Trump's temporary travel ban issued in March. The travel ban remains on hold amid legal challenges.

The ICE action comes amid the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration.

ICE officials declined to provide the number of people who were arrested and would not say whether the operation is ongoing. Such arrests have dismayed family members and sent chills through immigrant communities.

Late Sunday night, a crowd of Iraqi-Americans gathered outside the Detroit office of ICE on Jefferson Ave. attempting to block buses transporting the detainees to the OH detention facility. "Everyone in this state, country should be concerned at this point", Clarence Dass, the family's attorney said.

Chaldean American educational and community leader Nathan Kalasho, whose family operates a Detroit-area charter school for Chaldeans and others from Iraq and Syria, said the deportations are the result of a "back-door deal" between the US and Iraq. "The kids, they love you so much", Hang Nguyen said about her husband.

Civil rights advocates said those arrested were primarily Chaldean. She said similar removals have been carried out for Somalia and Cambodia natives. "The problem is, these aren't cases where these are people who pose a risk to public safety - it's just sort of irrational, low-hanging fruit". The precise number of detentions is unclear, but other reports say around 40 people were seized.

  • Salvatore Jensen