More than 100 Iraqi Christians were rounded up Sunday evening in federal raids in Michigan and will soon be deported back to their native land, where they face an uncertain fate in a country where Christians are marked for death in a genocide carried out by ISIS and other Islamic groups.
The raids were conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The ICE agents showed up without warning at the homes of Chaldean Christians and at a popular restaurant called Ishtar’s in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
Those detained were mostly legal residents of the U.S., some having spent the majority of their lives here, but have had felonies on their records.
Hundreds of Chaldeans were out protesting Monday evening at 15 Mile and Ryan in Sterling Heights.
Up to 1,000 or more Chaldean Christians on Monday evening protest deportation raids made on their community by ICE over the weekend.
Nahren Anweya, who emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a young girl and is now in her early 30s, said up to 200 were rounded up Sunday, most of them Chaldean or Assyrian Christians.
Video taken of the raids showed distraught families screaming and weeping.
“So, as you can see from video the family members were very confused. They didn’t know what is going on, and their families were beside themselves,” she told WND.
Watch video of the raids Sunday in Michigan:
One man, Wisam, whose family is afraid to give his full name, is 49 and has been living in the U.S. legally since age 11. He served less than a year in prison for an assault conviction when he got into a fight at a bar when in his early 20s. He punched a man who was harassing his girlfriend.
“Wisam has lived here in Sterling Heights almost his entire life and had actually gotten into a brawl in a bar – there were four men who were verbally harassing his girlfriend,” explained Anweya, a spokeswoman for the Chaldean community in Michigan. “Because he struck first, he was the one charged. He served his time, and he’s been a hard-working, productive member of society ever since, but he never applied for citizenship, that was his mistake, and he was one of the people who was picked up yesterday.”
Anweya said ICE will not let Wisam speak with his family.
Like many Iraqi Christians, Nahren Anweya’s family fled Iraq in 1989 after being decimated by the Muslim community there. More came after the fall of Saddam Hussein made life even more difficult for Christians.
“They have attorneys filing motions to release him, but the DHS is not going to respond to a motion,” she said. “We hope that they do, but this is heart wrenching, a devastating situation.”
Chaldean Nation, a group that represents the Chaldean diaspora, tweeted Monday:
Heartless racist politicians are persecuting #Chaldeans in Sterling Heights. #Obama, #Trump, @miketaylr https://t.co/yuFpCJMJHN
— Chaldean Nation (@ChaldeanNation) June 12, 2017
On Facebook, the organization posted a video and stated:
“In addition to facing a racist Sterling Heights Mayor Mike Taylor that wants to build a mega mosque, the persecuted Iraqi Christians are now facing heartless federal authorities that are forcing them to go back to Iraq to destroyed Chaldean towns and villages. Obama allowed Islamic cowards to destroy Iraq and Trump is finishing the job. HEARTLESS politicians that have no sense of reality.”
The Washington Examiner reported Monday that Trump is allowing 120,000 “DREAMers” to stay in the U.S. despite their illegal status, keeping in place the controversial Obama-era DACA program.
Nathan Kalasho, president of a Madison Heights-based Chaldean-centered charter school, said many of the Chaldeans like Wisam targeted for deportation back to Iraq are so Americanized they don’t even speak Arabic. He said the 100-plus people rounded up so far range in age from their mid-20s to 70. One woman is fighting cancer.
“Some people have been here for 40-plus years. A 40-plus year old was detained yesterday and has been here since he was 2 years old,” he said.
He said a majority of Michigan’s Chaldean community voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election, thinking he would protect them and their family members left behind in the Middle East.
In a June 2015 interview with CBN News correspondent David Brody, candidate Trump boasted, “I will be the greatest representative of the Christians they’ve had in a long time.”
He told Brody he was “outraged” that so many Christians were stuck in Syria and Iraq even though they want to come to the United States.
For that reason, Kalasho said many of the Chaldean Catholics in Michigan voted for Trump, even though Pope Francis was against Trump.
“After the Iraq War, a lot of this community were completely disengaged from politics or at least disenfranchised by the Republican Party,” Kalasho said, citing the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who protected the Christian community in Iraq. When Hussein was removed by former President George W. Bush, hell’s fury was unleashed on Christians – their priests were abducted, their churches burned down, and many of their members run out of their homes, [and they] were beheaded or shot if they didn’t convert to Islam.
“But they started to show their support for Trump when he took a very hard-line approach against ISIS and the situation in Iraq,” Kalasho said. “A lot of them, just speaking to them today, they feel let down and upset. I see it as a betrayal.”
WND reached out Monday to ICE press spokesman Khaalid Walls, who responded that the raids resulted from a deal made by President Trump and the government of Iraq, which agreed to take back its foreign nationals slated for deportation in return for being removed from Trump’s second travel ban.
Walls stated in full:
“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. 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. 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. More information about this enforcement effort will be made available in the coming days. The vast majority of those taken into custody are detained at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio.”
Advocates in Michigan said the vast majority of those rounded up were not murderers or rapists but convicted of petty crimes years ago.
The Chaldean and Assyrian Christians are concentrated in Sterling Heights, Warren, Madison Heights and other cities along the Oakland-Macomb county line of southeastern Michigan.
Kalasho said dropping an Americanized Chaldean Christian into Baghdad is like putting a house-trained cat that has lived its entire life indoors out into the middle of the woods.
“What makes this so puzzling and frustrating is both the last administration and the current one have said these are people who are victims of genocide, but then they turn around and say that, although they are victims of genocide, they are perfectly able to survive if they get dropped off at an airport in Baghdad,” Kalisho said. “I don’t want to speculate on anything, but there are not many Christians currently in Baghdad. And many of these individuals being deported don’t know a lick of Arabic. Many proudly expose the cross. Many have tattoos of the cross or other Christian symbols, which will make them a clear target for someone who is a radicalized Muslim.”
Anweya was even more blunt about the fate of these Christians upon arrival in Iraq.
“These are people who would not fare very well in Iraq,” she said. “As soon as they find out they have some kind of connection to the United States, they will kidnap them, demand cash from their families, threaten to behead them. Some, in the end, will die.
“We’re literally deporting them into a lake of fire.”
Anweya, whose family escaped Iraq when she was a small girl, said kidnapping Christians has become big business in Iraq.
“The moment they know it’s a Christian, they kidnap them. And they contact the family and say, ‘You have 30 or 50 days to pay up; otherwise, your family member will be beheaded,'” she said. “Our people sided with the U.S., so they consider us as traitors. They have been calling us traitors for decades, and they always call us traitors because we side with the West. So they will be in grave danger. Some of them don’t even have any family there, so they wouldn’t know where to start. We can only hope someone in a high position will see this and step in.”
Anweya said she does not believe the order to detain and deport Chaldean Christians came specifically from Trump.
“President Trump is deporting illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. These are not illegal immigrants,” she said. “They are mostly refugees on green cards.
“None of them had ever committed murder. None of them had ever raped anyone. But when ICE showed up, they had a crime on their record. They didn’t give them any information. They were picked up from their homes or from a restaurant and told they just wanted to ‘ask you a few questions.'”