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Chaldean community leader: Deporting Iraqi Christians could be a “death sentence”

Jun 12, 2017

It was a traumatic, emotional weekend for the Chaldean community of Metro Detroit. Chaldeans are a Christian minority from the Middle East, mostly from Iraq, and many live in Southeast Michigan.

Over the weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested dozens of Chaldeans, leaving family members stunned.

Martin Manna, an Iraqi-American Christian who is president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, joined Stateside to talk about the arrests and the impact it has had on his community. 

According to Manna, at least 40 Chaldeans were detained in an ICE sweep over the weekend, many of them had been in the country for decades.

"They all came to this country legally, they're not undocumented, they came with their families, but they came as children," Manna said. "And for one reason or another the family didn't apply for their citizenship and before they got their citizenship, they committed a crime unfortunately.

Once you commit a crime, there is no path to citizenship and you are given a "final order of removal." 

Some people say that since these individuals committed crimes, they should be deported. That's what the law says. Manna's response to that is that sending them back can be extremely dangerous. 

"If we want to follow the law, there's also laws in place that protect people from being sent back to a country in which knowingly they will be harmed or persecuted," Manna said.

With terrorists in Iraq and other places targeting Christians, Manna said sending these Chaldeans back to Iraq could be a "death sentence" for some of them.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about the challenges of proving that some people are originally from Iraq and why, according to Manna, many Chaldeans supported Donald Trump in the last election.

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