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“President Trump has placed a death sentence for the Christians that currently face deportation to Iraq.” – Mark Arabo, President, Minority Humanitarian Foundation, San Diego

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Miriam Raftery:  Iraqis Chaldeans and Assyrian Christians at Santa Sophia's Church in Spring Valley held a mass to mourn the murder of  Iraqi Christians  in a Baghdad church in 2010.

June 15, 2017 (San Diego) -- A class action lawsuit has been filed against the federal government in Michigan seeking to halt deportation of Iraqi refugees to Iraq. The suit seeks protections for over 100 Chaldean Christian detainees,  as well as other religious minorities including Shiite Muslims, Kurds, and Yezidis who would could face persecution, torture or death at the hands of ISIS if returned to war-torn Iraq.

“Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director for the ACLU of Michigan, in a statement on the ACLU website. “We are hoping that the courts will recognize the extreme danger that deportation to Iraq would pose for these individuals. Our immigration policy shouldn’t amount to a death sentence for anyone.”

The ACLU filed the complaint against Immigration and Customs Enforcement after ICE agents arrested  at least 114 Iraqis —including many who’ve been in the US for decades—in raids throughout metropolitan Detroit last weekend. Although many of the detainees were picked up for minor offenses in years past, the vast majority have been fully compliant with their conditions of supervision and have had no further run-ins with the law.

The lawsuit is a collaborative effort between the ACLU and the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, according to a press release sent by the Foundation based in San Diego, home to over 50,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians as well as Muslim refugees from Iraq.

 Those detained could face deportation as early as this weekend, according to the MHF release, which calls the federal suit “the only hope” to protect the safety of the detainees from being sent back to Iraq, where a travel warning from the U.S. State department is in effect .  A recent UNICEF report stated that  ISIS has been using children as human shields; ISIS has been brutally slaughtering religious minorities since the onset of its incursion into Iraq.

The suit seeks a hearing Friday and  contends that the detainees right to due process has been violated by the Trump administration’s actions, which also run afoul of the Refugee Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Convention Against Torture.

Mark Arabo, President of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, says,  “President Trump has placed a death sentence for the Christians that currently face deportation to Iraq. Many of these individuals have been here for over 30 years and were convicted of low level crimes like drug possession or failure to pay child support. We cannot re-introduce them to a genocidal war zone where they will undoubtedly be targets.”

The detainees include a mother of three children who committed only a minor misdemeanor many years ago and an Iraqi man left partially paralyzed from a seizure that he suffered during his arrest by ICE agents.

Arabo adds, “Minority Humanities Foundation is happy to have worked with the ACLU in making this class action suit a reality. We look forward to the day this suit sees the light of a courthouse, so that we may begin the long road to recovery for our community.”

The arrests come in the wake of a recent deal between Iraq and the US that removes Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens could be prohibited from coming to the US under an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump. In exchange for removal from that list, Iraq has agreed to accept Iraqi nationals sent back to the country by US immigration officials, a sudden reversal of a long-standing policy against repatriation.

The negotiations are part of White House efforts to convince courts to permit the President to impose his controversial Muslim ban, which was ruled illegal by federal courts after the ACLU sued to challenge the Executive Order.

The suit was filed on behalf of Iraqi refugees from Detroit who were taken to detention facilities in Ohio, far from where they have been living. But the suit applies more broadly and could bring protections to other Iraqis detained in other states.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue a temporary stay blocking deportation to Iraq without first providing them an opportunity to establish a likelihood that they would suffer persecution or torture if removed to Iraq. 

The court is also asked to find that the detainees are entitled to protection against such dangers, and that attorneys for plaintiffs be provided access to the detainees and documents on their cases.

In addition, the suit asks the court to order the petitioners from detention unless determined by an impartial adjudicator to be a danger of flight risk, and to return all detainees to the states where they resided before they were taken into custody.

 To view the suit click here.