United States immigration officials have reportedly arrested dozens of Iraqi Christians in southeastern Michigan during a series of roundups. Christians are protesting and warning that believers sent back to Iraq could be slaughtered.
"My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever," said 18-year-old Cynthia Barash, speaking of the ongoing slaughter of followers of Christ at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq.
CNN reported on Monday that her father, 47-year-old Moayad Barash, was one of 30 to 40 people seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Sunday in Detroit, as part of deportation efforts.
"He did something wrong 30 years ago. He didn't do anything today, yesterday, a year ago," she said, noting that her father had been caught with marijuana two or three decades ago.
Jeremiah Suleiman separately said that his uncle had been living in the U.S. for 35 years before Sunday's arrest.
"If my uncle gets sent back, it's basically sending him to a death sentence, just like everybody else here," Suleiman told CNN affiliate WXYZ.
"We've been here all of our lives," he added, urging Trump to reconsider these mass deportations, given that the Chaldean community largely supported him during the presidential election.
ICE explained in a statement that Iraq has agreed to "accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal," and noted that the people it is arresting have all been convicted of crimes.
"As part of ICE's efforts to process the backlog of these individuals, the agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses," the agency stated.
"Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law and ordered them removed."
Chaldean Americans have been speaking out against the arrests, however, The Associated Press reported. Detroit-area educational and community leader Nathan Kalasho pointed out that Iraqi Christians have been designated victims of genocide.
"Who could think that this deal could possibly be good?" asked Kalasho, whose family operates a charter school for Chaldeans and others from Iraq and Syria.
"Iraq assumes a few hundred former nationals — some of these people have spent nearly their entire lives here and some have committed minor offenses. They've paid their debt to society."
Lundon Attisha, communications director at the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, added that some of those arrested on Sunday had been living in the U.S. for more than 30 years.
"These are American citizens by all intents and purposes, They're not Iraqis. If they are put back to Iraq they face death, simple as that. A lot of individuals don't have families there anymore. They have no protection. Their homes are likely run over by ISIS," Attisha said.
Mark Arabo, president of MHF, argued that sending these Christians back to Iraq is "like sending cattle to a slaughter."
"These are Christians that will be slaughtered as they arrive in Iraq. It's inhuman, it's unfathomable, it's unbelievable and we will file a federal lawsuit asking for a stay," Arabo said.
AP noted that close to 100 people protested on Sunday at a Detroit detention center, expressing similar concerns for those arrested.
Watchdog groups and reports have indicated that over 80 percent of Christians have fled Iraq in the last 13 years due to sectarian violence and the rise of the Islamic State. Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians in 2003 but now fewer than 300,000 remain.
Trump has issued two executive orders, temporarily suspending refugee resettlement and banning immigration from half a dozen Muslim-majority countries. Both have been blocked by federal judges. Many religious groups and evangelicals have denounced the executive orders, calling for compassion for those seeking to settle in the U.S., though some have backed Trump in his efforts to keep the nation safe.
As The Christian Post reported back in March, some conservative groups, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, suggested that limiting the country's refugee intake will work to protect U.S. citizens from the dangers of terrorism.
Others, such as the Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez, bishop of Austin and chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, have said that welcoming and protecting the vulnerable is part of Jesus Christ's calling of "welcoming the stranger" that believers are instructed to follow.
Amid Trump administration-led immigration raids across the country, some churches, including those in Detroit, have chosen to serve as a sanctuary to shelter undocumented immigrants.
"For me, this about doing what's right and what is humane," said the Rev. Louis Forsythe II, pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Hamtramck.