Dozens of Iraqi nationals have been arrested for potential deportation, many of them including Christians, in Detroit on Sunday, according to numerous reports. Many estimates say about 40 have been arrested, while some reports estimate as many as 80.
The arrests come as a result of an agreement made between the U.S. and Iraq. Though Iraq was initially one of the countries from which Trump’s executive order banned travel, the U.S. had taken the country off the list in a new, revised executive order. In return, Iraq told the U.S. it would receive Iraqi nationals that were deported from the U.S.
For many of those who were arrested over the weekend, however, being sent back to Iraq — a country they may not have been to in decades — means certain torture or death, advocates say. Their lack of fluency in the language is one of the telltale signs of their life in America, and those who are Christian face an even greater risk.
“These are Christians that will be slaughtered as they arrive in Iraq,” Mark Arabo, president of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, told CNN. “It’s inhuman, it’s unfathomable, it’s unbelievable and we will file a federal lawsuit asking for a stay.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said in a statement that those who have been arrested have criminal records.
“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,” ICE said. “Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law and ordered them removed.”
Advocates argue that many have already completed sentences for their crimes.
“I understand these are criminals, but they paid their dues,” Eman Jajonie-Daman, a Detroit immigration attorney, told Reuters. “But we cannot send them back to die.”
Nahidh Shaou, a U.S. veteran who served a 35-year sentence for shooting and wounding a police officer, is among those who may be deported, Christianity Today reports.
Shaou’s niece, Tiara Shaya, told Christianity Today that “his Christian faith, his Chaldean ethnicity, his veteran status” will be among the reasons he will “be targeted” if he is sent back to Iraq.
“I see it as a death sentence. I really don’t know how he could survive with the combination of targets on his back,” she added.
Reports say that about 1,400 Iraqi nationals are currently on the docket to be deported, and some estimate that over 300 of those listed are Christians.