Michigan Lawmakers Send Letter on Deportation Orders for Chaldean American Immigrants

Jun 14, 2017 Issues: Foreign Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Sander Levin (MI-09) today, along with Reps. John Conyers (MI-13), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and John Moolenaar (MI-04), wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly regarding the large number of Chaldean Americans who have been placed in detention and are awaiting removal. The letter requested a copy of the U.S. government’s repatriation agreement with Iraq, and for information about safety measures planned for the individuals.
Most members of the Michigan Chaldean community are Catholic Christians originally from Iraq. The metro-Detroit area has one of the largest Chaldean American communities in the United States. As a religious minority, Chaldeans face persecution and possibly torture if returned to Iraq.

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text is below:

Dear Secretary Kelly:

On behalf of our constituents, we are writing most urgently and with grave concern about a large number of Iraqi-American immigrants who are being placed in detention and are awaiting removal.

Individuals, most of whom are Chaldean but include Muslims as well, will be placed in great danger if deported to Iraq.  Because of the horrors perpetrated against the Catholic Chaldean population in Iraq, these individuals could be stranded in a country in which they are subject to extreme jeopardy. 

The vast majority of these individuals came to the U.S. legally long ago but are subject to deportation now because they violated their visa restrictions by committing crimes of various degrees, or for other reasons.  Those that committed crimes have, to the best of our knowledge, served any sentence and completed any parole.  These individuals have put down roots.  Many have married, helped raise families, worked hard, opened small businesses, and paid their taxes.

Most have no relatives in Iraq because they, or the families that brought them to America as children, left the country decades ago. The traditional Chaldean areas in Iraq have been uprooted, destroying much of what would have been left of “home” for the Chaldeans.

The State Department Report on Human Rights Practices in Iraq describes the dangerous plight of Chaldeans, and Iraqis of other ethnic and religious groups, who face the real risk of kidnapping and torture by ISIS and other terrorist groups.  High-level officials from both parties agree that genocide is being committed against Christians in Iraq and Syria.  Secretary Kerry said so in March 2016, reaffirmed by Vice President Pence just last month. Returning these individuals to the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq violates the due process that these individuals must be provided.  They are in the United States and, as a result, are entitled to due process, despite not being U.S. citizens.  See Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001).

Until recently, Iraq refused to accept these individuals who have few, if any, ties to Iraq, no Iraqi identification, or Iraqi travel documents.  In addition, most do not speak the language.  The fact that Iraq has now agreed to accept them does not address that deporting these individuals can send them into grave danger and perhaps death.

We accordingly request that you immediately send us a copy of the U.S. Government’s agreement with Iraq so we in Congress can review its terms, and request that you inform us as to what specific measures are provided to ensure these individuals’ safety and all other relevant information.  

Until we in Congress can review all aspects of the agreement reached with Iraq, and the referenced safety measures, we urge you to hold off removal of these individuals to Iraq.

We look forward to a prompt answer to all of the requested information.  Thank you in advance for your urgent attention to this matter.