A US federal district judge has halted deportation of “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE field office,” in a move aimed at protecting 114 Iraq Christians who are facing deportation.
Arrested in Michigan earlier in the month, the group of mostly Chaldean Christians each had some kind of criminal record, according to authorities. The local Chaldean bishop in Detroit claims that, “Many who were picked up are not hardened criminals, but for the last decades have been great citizens.”
They are being represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who say it would be unfair to deport the Iraqi nationals as they would face persecution in their home country, where the US government acknowledges Christians are facing a genocide.
US federal district judge Mark Goldsmith intervened, blocking the deportation with a two-week delay, after which he will rule again. The judge’s order halts deportations of “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE field office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by ICE, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations.”
Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney representing the group, responded to the ruling, saying, “The court’s action today was legally correct and may very well have saved numerous people from abuse and possible death.”
Chaldean Christians are “Aramaic-speaking, Eastern Rite Catholics,” according to Chaldean Community Foundation (CCF). Members of the Chaldean community are asking for support from evangelical leaders in America. “They could be doing a lot more,” Martin Hanna of the CCF told Religion News Service. “They could be saying, ‘Wait, we have been fighting to protect these people in their ancestral lands and now we are sending them back to those areas that we’re not doing enough to protect?'”
In Defense of Christians, a Washington based group, aims to protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Philippe Nassif, the group’s executive director, asked evangelicals like Franklin Graham to help.
Referencing a summit held by Graham last month in support of Middle Eastern Christian victims of genocide, Nassif said, “They came to D.C., a whole bunch of them. They brought up the issue that needed to be brought up, but we’re not seeing the follow-up.”
Nassif continued, “If they can’t stand up for the people who already made it here, then how can they stand up for the ones in the Middle East?”
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