Dozens of Iraqi Christians living in the Detroit area have been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
“My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever,” said 18-year-old Cynthia Barash, whose father Moayad was arrested over the weekend while on a beach outing with his family.
The raids this past Sunday came after the United States signed a deal with Iraq to take back Iraqi nationals convicted of crimes.
In Moayad Barash’s case, he was convicted of marijuana possession decades ago, and his daughter says he’s being unfairly punished years later.
She took to Twitter posting a picture of her and her dad saying: “My number one man. The strongest man in the whole wide world, that’s why I know that we’re going to get thru this.”
My number one man. The strongest man in the whole wide world, that’s why I know that we’re going to get thru this tg daddy I LOVE YOU pic.twitter.com/8NhWxlhczZ
— cynthia (@barashboo) June 12, 2017
“He did something wrong 30 years ago. He didn’t do anything today, yesterday, a year ago,” Cynthia Barash told CNN.
Several arrests were also made in Tennessee as ICE agents say they are targeting some 1,400 Iraqis for deportation for crimes committed.
Iraq is among seven countries on a White House travel ban.
Iraq wants to be removed from the ban and in exchange has agreed to accept deportees who are living in the United States without proper documentation.
“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,” an ICE statement reads. “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.”
Protest of christians being deported to Iraq war zone family fears they will be sentenced to death pic.twitter.com/esga5thyZK
— sterling hts voter (@wee_the_people) June 13, 2017
Lundon Attisha with the Minority Humanitarian Foundation is trying to stop the deportations.
“Some have issues with probation or green cards, but most are here legally,” Attisha told CNN. “Families are being broken up, none of them are threats to society. They are mostly men.”
The foundation says about 30 Iraqi Christians were arrested and sent to a detention facility in Youngstown, Ohio. Several Iraqi Muslims were also reportedly arrested in the sweep.
Community groups say Chaldean Christians could face sectarian violence if sent back to Iraq https://t.co/7UQp6Lhv9V
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) June 12, 2017
“These are American citizens by all intents and purposes, They’re not Iraqis. If they are put back to Iraq they face death, simple as that. A lot of individuals don’t have families there anymore. They have no protection. Their homes are likely run over by ISIS,” Attisha said.
On Sunday, television crews in Detroit captured distraught mothers and daughters watching as their loved ones were taken to an ICE agency office.
“There’s a reason why we fled our country,” Zeinab al-Badry, whose husband was among those taken, told WDIV-TV. “It’s not to have fun in America. We fled to have a safe life for us and our kids.”
Reaction to the arrests have been swift.
In a video uploaded to Twitter, women standing behind a fenced gate just outside an ICE office can be heard screaming, ‘Oh, my God! They are refugees. What are you doing?’
60+ Chaldean Catholic Assyrian refugees in Detroit face deportation after they were detained at a Sunday Church service by ICE border patrol pic.twitter.com/4OMwBI10SK
— Max J. Joseph (@DeadmanMax) June 12, 2017
“Even those who oppose an expansion of America’s refugee program because they see in the faces of bereaved mothers and starving children only potential terrorists or welfare recipients surely appreciate the fact that for those Iraqi Christians already living in this country, deportation is simply unfeasible,” wrote Matthew Walther in an article for The Week.
“To send Christians back to the hellhole of ISIS-controlled Iraq, a state that has never been far from the verge of collapse since the fall of Saddam Hussein, would be nothing short of a state-sponsored execution, albeit a needlessly complicated one. They could always just shoot them here,” Walther added.
On Monday night, scores of people took to the streets in Detroit chanting, “We want freedom! We want freedom!”
Others held signs protesting the move by ICE agents.
— Chaldean View (@chaldeanview) June 12, 2017
Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, says sending them back to Iraq “is like a death sentence.”
“They’re no longer criminals,” Manna told the Washington Post. “They did their time.”
The arrests, which were described by one immigration attorney as “a major sweep,” sent a wave of panic across several cities home to large Iraqi immigrant populations.
Not good: ICE detains Christians from Iraq living in Michigan, facing deportation back to genocide https://t.co/54Ntht75Cg
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) June 12, 2017
“What am I supposed to do?” asked Sylvia, a 44-year-old housewife and mother of three.
Her husband was among those rounded up by ICE agents over the weekend. She told the Washington Post that her husband served out a 15-year sentence for a drug crime he committed nearly 20 years ago.
He was the family’s only breadwinner.
“He’s not a menace to society,” she told the Post. “He does what he is supposed to be doing to take care of his family. What more do they want?”