# 12 Cover Story

Risk Of Deportation

Hundreds of Chaldeans without U.S. Citizenships could be flown back to Iraq

By Vanessa Denha Garmo

Will they stay or will they go?

That is the question many Iraqis are asking. The United States wants to deport Iraqis who have committed crimes but so far, no plane has flown them back to their homeland.

“So many people are living in fear,” said Martin Manna, President of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation, who, last month, hosted an open-forum at the Foundation in Sterling Heights.  “It hasn’t been since 2010 that the U.S. deported people back to Iraq for felonies.”

Despite the fact that Iraq came off the list of countries whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S., it is being reported that Iraq agreed to increase cooperation with the U.S. and would accept deportees from this country, which they had refused to do for years.

Manna estimates about 300 Chaldeans in Michigan alone are at risk of deportation to a country where their faith makes them a target.

“Sending them back would amount to a death sentence for them,” he said.  “We cannot turn a blind eye to what may happen to the deportees once they are sent to Iraq.”

Manna calls the situation ironic since Chaldeans in Macomb County overwhelmingly supported Trump in the presidential election, “because they were so frustrated by the previous policies, of the way Christians were being treated under the Obama administration.”

Speaking at the town hall meeting last month, Eman Jajonie-Damon noted that, “there was much fear and hysteria among the attendees and justifiably so because they all feared being sent to die in Iraq, and wondered how could this Administration betray them as Christians.”  Jajonie-Damon is a Warren-based immigration attorney and Southfield magistrate.

As of April, there were no planes scheduled to leave to Iraq according to the Iraqi Counsel General.

“We conduct a thorough interview and investigation of people the U.S. wants to deport,” said Almanhal Alsafi, Counsel General to Iraq. “We have to first determine if that person is in fact from Iraq and we will not agree to send those people back unless they are willing to return.”

On rare occasions, there have been convicted felons asking to return to Iraq opposed to serving out sentences in the U.S. prison system, according to Alsafi.

The Counsel does not get involved in the legal issues. “We process the file if there is proper paper work and if there is a clear will by this person to go back to the country voluntarily,” said Alsafi. “Even if the U.S. forces them back to Iraq, the Iraqi government doesn’t have to accept them. This is the policy of the Iraqi government. There first has to be the will of the person to return and then we determine if the person is actually from Iraq.”

If they don’t have the proper paperwork but do want to go back, “the process is long but it is doable,” said Alsafi.

According to Iraqi law, the person has to be willing to return to Iraq.  One particular case demonstrates Iraq’s changing its policy.

Bradley Maze is an immigration attorney in metro Detroit, home to about 175,000 Iraqis.

Immigration agents had picked up one of his clients after a probation violation, and held him in immigration detention for more than six months, which, according to the law, is too long.

“And so, we filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Michigan to contest his detention – that either immigration must release him or remove him,” Maze said.

Maze’s client already had what’s called a final order of removal. But because his client was an Iraqi national, Maze called the U.S. government’s bluff. “We assumed that the government of Iraq would not be able to issue a travel document, because they haven’t in the past,” Maze said.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the government filed a response that revealed a major change for Iraqis with deportation orders: “Iraq was specifically removed from the list of countries affected by the Executive Order based on its agreement to facilitate repatriation of Iraqi national’s subject to removal orders,” the response read.

The client remains in detention, awaiting a flight to Iraq.

Under the second executive order that President Trump signed, “it was kind of a quid pro quo,” said Maze, “that the Iraqi government would assist the U.S. government of removing Iraqis with final orders of deportation,” noted in a small passage in the new executive order.

“The new Executive Order basically wiped out previous policies,” explained Maze. “The interpretation of that by immigration custom enforcement is that they can remove people without travel documents. They can use minimal identification documents to remove people back to Iraq.”

Maze’s client has not been scheduled for a removal date, but he has a couple of serious convictions. There was an order to deport him in 2012, but the government was unable to do so. He violated probation and he is back in detention.  He was a Green Card holder who came to the United States as a young boy. He is in his 20s today.

“We are telling people to stay put, and try to ease their anxiety,” said Manna. “People have fled to Canada and others are saying they want to go to Mexico and if they do, they won’t be allowed back in the U.S.”

“This is the most egregious violation of human rights,” said Jajonie-Daman. “How could our country declare genocide in March of 2016, which is not easily obtained, and then send Christians back to a country we already verified is persecuting and slaughtering Christians? The American public must be made aware because we pride ourselves in being the guardians of human rights; yet, our administration is entering into agreements with Iraq that they can send these Christians back without any documentation whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Nahidh Shaou’s family is circulating a petition on social media that they have addressed to elected leaders.

His family is asking to stop deportation of Iraqi Christians, specifically, Iraqi Chaldean Christian and U.S. Army Veteran Shaou.

The petition is written on behalf of his mother, sisters, family, friends and concerned citizens.

“The state of Iraq is dire and rife with sectarianism and violence,” stated the petition.  “ISIS specifically targets and murders Christians and seeks to eradicate all religious minorities from the country. If the U.S. government deports Iraqi Christians back to Baghdad, directly into the hands of ISIS, it is committing an inhumane crime.”

The family is arguing that President Trump stated that he seeks to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East. “The U.S. government can first help Iraqi Christians by not deporting them into the lion’s den of Baghdad,” stated in the petition.

Shaou immigrated to America at 5-years-old and has lived in America ever since. He voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army as a teenager and was deployed to Korea.

His father died while he was overseas in Korea. According to the family, when Nahidh returned to America for his father’s funeral, he suffered from depression, guilt, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He received an honorable discharge and returned back to Michigan to take care of his mother and siblings. His mother was then diagnosed with cancer in her early 40’s and Nahidh struggled to provide for the family.

The family claims because of PTSD and the weight of his circumstances, Shaou committed a serious crime.

He was convicted of robbing a restaurant and wounding a police officer. He served nearly 34 years in Michigan state prisons. He was paroled but was never freed. He immediately was transferred into federal custody — detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).   Immigration officials moved him to a detention center in Louisiana where he was told he would be deported to Iraq.

His family claims in the petition, that it is a country he doesn’t even remember.

According to the petition, Nahidh quickly reformed, was a model inmate, and even received a college degree and a Certificate of Welding while he was incarcerated. Nahidh’s dream is to attain a Ph.D. in welding.

Unfortunately, Nahidh was not afforded American citizenship, therefore making him eligible for deportation.

All of his family members are American citizens living in America; he does not know a single Iraqi in Iraq. He only speaks English and will be unable to survive in the war zone of Iraq, especially as ISIS hunts for Christians in the country. “If deported to Iraq, he will be deported to his death,” the petition claims.

Nahidh does not have an Iraqi passport or any Iraqi identification documents. According to reports, the Iraqi government has provided a signed, sworn affidavit stating they cannot prove his Iraqi nationality and do not want him to be deported back to Iraq.

“We plead on his behalf to STOP the deportation of U.S. Army Veteran Nahidh Shaou to Baghdad,” stated the petition which is signed by The Iraqi Christian Community and concerned citizens.  “Please help protect Iraqi Christians and don’t let Nahidh be deported into the hands of ISIS.”

As of April 17, immigration officials issued a temporary stay for Shaou.  His attorney has filed a motion to re-open his case and allow Shao to stay in the United States.

Although he has a temporary stay, according to reports, the first chartered flight to Iraq since 2010 was allegedly scheduled for last month. It was unclear at the time of print what date and how many deported Iraqis would be aboard that flight.

“Just imagine being dumped in an Iraqi airport and the authorities are given only your criminal record without any other documents,” said Jajonie-Daman.  “How are you supposed to survive in Iraq with only a criminal record hanging on your neck like the scarlet letter? It is hard enough for Iraqi’s living there proving their identity with numerous documents just to get food rations, to move from one area to another, obtain employment, or basically, travel in the city, let alone for someone who does not even speak Arabic and is culturally illiterate.  If the sentencing judge did not sentence the alien to life sentence, what right does the government have to sentence these people to death?”