Fighting for families

Chamber presents a special recognition to Congressman Sander Levin

By Vanessa Denha Garmo

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Congressman Sander Levin and his family have had a long-standing relationship with many members of the Chaldean community that spans decades. “In the late 1960s, my late-wife Vickie and I with our kids went on vacation with a Chaldean family and had an unbelievable time,” he recalled. “That same family insisted we have dinner with them. I have never had such warm reception which is more important than the food but the food was amazing; I wasn’t able to eat for a couple days. We became very close to the community. I have photos with various clergy that date back 50 years.”  

That deep-rooted relationship with the community was one of the reasons Congressman Levin felt so strongly about the Chaldeans being detained to be deported.  It wasn’t the only reason. “To pick up 110 or more people out of the blue, people who regularly reported to ICE so they knew exactly where these people would be and sometimes they came with guns and there was no need for that, people who had been in the country for 20 to 30 years, is another reason I reacted so strongly.”

His position on the issue prompted the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce to offer this special recognition. 

“Our members and Board chose to honor Congressman Levin for his ongoing service to the community and more recently for his efforts to aid those at-risk of deportation,” explained President Martin Manna. “There is no member of Congress who provides better constituent services. We are thankful for his dedication to the people of Michigan.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began the massive sweep in June of last year. “I could not believe that ICE would split up families,” said Levin. “Many of these people came here when they were young.”

Levin met with some of the detainees in Youngstown Ohio. “One man in particular told me that when he committed the offense, he was much younger,” said Levin. “Today, he has children and explained how if sent back to Iraq, he would have no one. He has no family there. The villages where Christians lived have been terribly destroyed. These stories are why I immediately went into action.” 

Levin explained that the United States needs to find a path to citizenship. “Congress has failed,” he said. “The Senate passed a bill but it didn’t get through the House controlled by the Republicans.  We have to make sure that people who come here and are hard-working and essentially good citizens find that true path to citizenship.”

Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a preliminary injunction that halted the deportations. “The judge took into account the law,” said Levin.

A group of Members of Congress from Michigan, led by Levin, filed and amicus brief with the Sixth Court of Appeals in support of the plaintiffs in Hamama v. Adducci. Levin was joined by Representatives Kildee, Moolenaar, Lawrence, and Dingell. The friend of the court brief outlines their support for the July 2017 stay of removal of Iraqis in Michigan, which is currently being challenged by the federal government.

The brief outlines several examples of detainee stories showing their longstanding ties to the U.S. and Michigan, including the lead petitioner, Sam Hamama, whose wife was Congressman Levin’s guest at the State of the union address last month. Hamama is among more than 100 Iraqi Christians from Michigan who were arrested and detained last year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Like Sam, many of the individuals under threat of removal came to America as children. They have started families, with children as U.S. citizens, and positively contribute to the communities in which they live,” said Congressman Levin. “Deporting them to Iraq would threaten their lives and tear their families apart as well as hurt the churches, businesses, and communities they would be forced to leave behind.”

Congressman Levin has closely followed the plight of the Iraqi-Americans during their detention. He has written several letters, including an October 3, 2017 letter to Thomas Homan, who is Deputy Director of ICE, urging a meaningful review of the detainees’ post-order custody detention. The Congressman also has personally visited some of the detained Iraqi-Americans at a facility in Youngstown, Ohio.

“We are fighting for families,” said Levin. “This is really what this is all about and it is why my brother Carl and I have been involved and we both filed Amicus briefs. We are fighting for families and nothing is going to stop us.” 

Levin was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1982. The 9th Congressional District includes communities in Macomb and Oakland counties and spans from Lake St. Clair to Bloomfield Township.