SHAFAQNA – Advocates who say dozens of Iraqi Christians were targeted in immigration sweeps Sunday – outside churches and restaurants in metro Detroit – fear they’ll be killed if returned to their home country.
“These people have been declared victims of genocide by both the Obama administration and the current administration,” said Nathan Kalasho, who runs a Madison Heights charter school with 70% of students from immigrant families and is helping to connect people affected by the raids with legal services, interpreters and aid.
“So sending them back to Iraq under that label is a pretext for something really bad.”
He said there are feelings of “anger and nervousness” at the school this morning, for several of his students’ families were affected. Kalasho said that as many as 100 people – mostly Christians, but some Muslims as well – were arrested in the raids that began as early as 5 a.m. Some of the people fled rather than be arrested. Most or all of them have previous criminal convictions, he said, but some were petty crimes going back decades.
“They weren’t fugitive criminals,” Kalasho said, adding that he spoke to family members who said their crimes were for offenses as minor as marijuana possession. “So to have that brought up for a means for deportation, to me, it’s inhumane. And it’s not who we are as Americans.
Kalasho said he believes this stems from a deal President Donald Trump made with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to have the country take back nationals under deportation status in exchange for possible removal from Trump’s revised travel-ban list (which was put on hold, pending a court decision).
Kalasho said agents targeted people at the Tim Hortons on 15 Mile and Ryan Road in Sterling Heights, as well as outside churches. As mostly Christians, many were taken from their families on a day set aside for their faith.
“It’s a Sunday – that’s not an accident,” Kalasho said. “It was deliberate and, to me, vicious.”