Evangelical leader the Rev. Franklin Graham has said the arrests of hundreds of Chaldean Christians in Detroit and other cities nationwide is "very disturbing," and urged President Donald Trump to consider their fate if deported back to Iraq.
"I find it very disturbing what I have read about Chaldean Christians being rounded up by U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for possible deportation. I would encourage the president to have someone investigate these cases thoroughly," Graham said on Facebook Friday.
"I understand a policy of deporting people who are here illegally and have broken the law. I don't know all of the details, but I would encourage our president to give great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq."
Christian leaders have been speaking out against the arrests carried out by immigration officials in Detroit last weekend, warning that the migrants face a "death sentence" if sent back to Iraq, where the Islamic State terror group has been committing genocide.
ICE claims that the vast majority of the 114 people arrested in Detroit have in the past carried out serious crimes, and represent a "very real public safety threat."
The American Civil Liberties Union, a left-leaning legal group which has challenged conservatives on a variety of issues in the past, also stood up for the Christians, and filed a class action lawsuit Thursday to stop the deportations.
The ACLU of Michigan is representing five Christian petitioners and two Muslims, CNN has reported. The group is arguing that it's illegal to deport the detainees without giving them the chance to prove they could face torture or death back in Iraq.
"Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties," said Kary Moss, executive director for the ACLU of Michigan.
"We are hoping that the courts will recognize the extreme danger that deportation to Iraq would pose for these individuals. Our immigration policy shouldn't amount to a death sentence for anyone."
ICE Secretary Gillian Christensen noted that officials have arrested a total of 199 Iraqi nationals since May, and have defended their actions in numerous statements.
"The vast majority of those arrested [in] the Detroit metropolitan area have very serious felony convictions, multiple felony convictions in many cases. I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement personnel who, day in and day out, put their lives on the line to protect this community," Christensen said.
Chaldean Community Foundation President Martin Manna said that he has reached out to the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but the issue remains unresolved.
"We are pleading with the government to reconsider," Manna said.
Pastor Jalil Dawood, the president of World Refugee Care, who fled Iraq as a refugee during the country's war with Iran in 1982 and started a new life in the U.S., told The Christian Post earlier this week, "We can't say these people went through genocide and send them back to be victimized again! We hope and pray that the issue gets resolved."
"America should never deport Christians to Iraq because they will be in trouble in Iraq as over a million left Iraq since 2003, and this will cause great hardship to their loved ones here," also bringing "harm to them physically, mentally, and spiritually if they [are] ever sent back," Dawood said.