Escaping Islamic State: 12 Iraqi Christians Seeking Freedom Now Face Deportation by US Gov't

Iraqi refugees
Mark Arabo, a spokesmen for the Chaldean community speaks to Al Jazeera in Southern California, July 2015. |

Twelve of the 28 Iraqi Christians who fled Islamic State violence and were detained at the Mexican border while trying to enter the U.S., will face deportation after being held for months at a San Diego detention center.

Lauren Mack, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Public Affairs Officer, responded with an official statement to The Christian Post on Thursday confirming that there were currently 28 Iraqi nationals in custody at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego. "One of those individuals was criminally charged last week in a federal court with providing false information on an immigration application. Twelve others in the group have now been ordered removed by an immigration judge."

But Mark Arabo, spokesman for the local Chaldean Christian community in San Diego and for the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, is upset by the U.S. government's decision to refuse refuge for the Iraqi Christians escaping the Islamic State, and said in a recent press statement, "These Christians have escaped slavery and death from Islamic State only to be imprisoned. The symbol for America is the Statue of Liberty. It's not a gated fence."

Arabo told CP that he is in touch with 20 of the 28 Iraqi Christian refugees currently being held at the detention center. "The families of the detained refugees say they did not come across illegally or evade law enforcement. Rather they came with the right paperwork and told immigration officers that they were fleeing persecution by Islamic State in Iraq and were seeking refuge in America."

He added that each case is different and due to privacy laws it was hard to get all the details. "Some have been in there for 4-6 months according to their families. We have no idea when they will get out or about their current welfare."

Iraqi Christian refugee
Iraqi Christian refugees attend a service at a church in Hazmiyeh, near Beirut December 12, 2014. Iraqi Christians who sought refuge in Lebanon after Islamist militants tore through their homeland said they had no idea when they would be able to return as they gathered for prayers ahead of Christmas. Picture taken December 12, 2014. |

The U.S. government's decision to deport these Iraqi Christians seeking safe haven from IS violence is a sharp contrast to the fact that last year the country welcomed 300,000 immigrants from Muslim-dominant countries, as reported by CBN.

Arabo and other activists are working with the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights organizations to secure the release of the Iraqi refugees. "These are Christians who had no other choice. We need to embrace them, not imprison them. We're not going to stop and we're going to hold them accountable," Arabo vowed.

Minority Humanitarian Foundation case studies included the story of Iraqi Christian Aamer Moshi who served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army during the Iraq war. Now, he's living in San Diego and prays that his 26-year-old cousin Ziad Matty will soon be able to join him.

"Ziad will not be harmful to this country, will not be a danger to this country. Let him go live with his family. It's not too much. He is young, he can work, he can pay taxes, he can be happy around his family, and his family will sponsor him," Moshi told the MHF.

The MHF says that Islamic jihadist groups have been forcing Christians to convert to Islam, leave, or die. "Around one million Christians have fled Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Only 400,000 remain in the country," Arabo concluded.

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