'These Christians Escaped the Wrath of ISIS, Only to Be Imprisoned By' the US Gov't, Activist Defending Chaldean Refugees Says

Prayer Vigil Demonstration
A group of San Diego area Chaldean Christians hold a prayer service outside of an immigration detention center in Otay on behalf of 20 Iraqi detainees within the facility on Thursday, July 30, 2015. |

A Middle Eastern Christian community has demanded that immigration officials release 20 Iraqi Christian refugees being held at a detention center in California.

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

Around 30 demonstrators from San Diego held a prayer service outside the walls of the Otay Detention Center last Thursday on behalf of the Chaldean Christian refugees detained inside.

Mark Arabo, a spokesman for the San Diego area Chaldean community and an attendee of the service, told The Christian Post via email that Thursday's demonstration "was our way of telling our Christian brothers and sisters that they will not be forgotten."

"It is important to understand that the State Department ended all processing for religious minorities out of Iraq, so there is NO legal way for an individual to come from Iraq to the U.S.," said Arabo.

"Our route is the only way. The biggest obstacle these families face is not ISIS now though. It is our America [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]."

Arabo also told CP that while "we cannot be completely certain as to why these Christians are being held," it appeared "as though our border only applies when it is Christians crossing it."

"We want answers, and we want to know that their detention is not indefinite. These Christians have escaped the wrath of ISIS, only to be imprisoned by ICE. Something about this is not right," said Arabo.

Since the rise of ISIS in northern Iraq, an estimated 100,000 individuals have fled the nation, with many attempting to come to the United States for safety.

ICE officials have said that they lack the resources to keep up with the backlog of cases regarding individuals immigrating to the United States.

The 20 Chaldean Christians detained at Otay have been at the facility for nearly five months after officials caught them crossing at the southern border without proper documentation.

In addition to the demonstration, Arabo told CP that his organization, the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, is overseeing efforts to help the 20 detained refugees and others.

"Currently, we are working with attorneys, civil rights groups, and the public at large to raise awareness of these injustices," said Arabo.

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