2017 Recap: ICE Rounds Up Dozens of Local Iraqi Immigrants with Criminal Records
December 27th, 2017, 7:32 AM
This repost from June 12 is the sixth in our Top 10 countdown of this year's most-read articles, a reverse-order series through Sunday. Links to earlier installments are at the end.
Chaldean community members are among those who voted for Donald Trump, believing he'd support their best interests. Now they have reason for doubt.
Many dozens of Chaldeans from Metro Detroit were detained June 11 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and face possible deportation, community leaders say. Hundreds were picked up, according to the Arab-American Civil Rights League.
Some came to the U.S. years ago and served time for crimes committed when younger, Elisha Anderson and Niraj Warikoo write in the Detroit Free Press.
Federal immigration officials say those picked up have criminal backgrounds and are to be removed under a deal with Iraq.
"As a result of recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal," says Khaalid Walls of the Michigan office of ICE. The federal agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
"As part of ICE's efforts to process the backlog of these individuals, the agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses."
Walls did not say how many Iraqis were detained Sunday. Attorneys representing some of the men detained gave estimates ranging from 90 to more than 300. They were taken to a detention facility in Youngstown, Ohio.
Earlier, around two dozen people were picked up locally over the last month.
♦ Update: Later reports said Muslims are among those detained.
Chaldeans, who are Catholics, worry about persecution and possible death if returned to Muslim-led Iraq.
"I voted for Trump thinking he would protect ethnic minorities," Shantal Hanna, whose husband is detained, tells WDIV. "Now it's blowing up in my face."
"If you go to Iraq and pass by ISIS, they are going to get killed," says Junior Seiba, whose cousin is detained.
"ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending removable aliens," spokesman Walls says in a statement. "The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis."
Joseph Kassab, founder and president of the Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute in West Bloomfield, says families are distressed about loved ones because "they don't know what their destiny is."
The Arab-American Civil Rights League issues a statement:
In a sweep to continue efforts to deport Iraqi nationals with criminal records, hundreds of people have been arrested in Metro Detroit this past weekend. The arrests have taken place in Dearborn, Warren and Sterling Heights and include Chaldeans and Muslims among those arrested. Similar sweeps have taken place across the country.
This follows the national trend, where immigration arrests have risen this year with the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned on tightening immigration enforcement. In January, the issued an executive order denying federal funds to cities giving sanctuary to illegal immigrants and issued the highly contested travel ban, which is being challenged in multiple districts across the country.
These acts are truly disappointing and disgraceful, particularly as many Iraqis subject to deportation face a significant risk of persecution by foreign terrorist groups upon their removal to Iraq. Many of these individuals have already paid their dues to society due to acts committed decades ago, who are now punished again and being torn apart from their families.
Top 10 countdown so far