By Vanessa Denha Garmo
High security surrounded Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield last month for a visit from Vice President Mike Pence who was in town to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate John James. Nearly 200 people attended the fundraiser and about 12 people attended a private meeting prior to the luncheon.
The event was organized by Tony Antone. Bishop Francis and Martin Manna from Chaldean Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation were among the select group. “We are deeply grateful for Vice President Pence’s efforts to aid the persecuted minorities in the Nineveh Plains area of Iraq,” said Manna. “Specifically providing direct aid to help rebuild and restore our villages post ISIS. The Vice President has met with our Bishop Leaders from Iraq, including Archbishop Bashar Warda from Erbil. We are hopeful aid will arrive soon.”
Manna, through the Chaldean Community Foundation, followed up with the Vice President by sharing data, statistic and other information about the Chaldean Community in Iraq as well as in the United States. This included the status of refugees coming in following the ISIS invasion.
There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of refugee visas being granted for the Chaldean, Syriac, and Assyrian people of Iraq, which were issued in far greater numbers prior to 2014. Through documentation, Manna was able to share compelling data and testimonials from witnesses and other experts that attest to a policy by the United Nations of open discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East in the refugee visa administrative process.
“The disparity of refugee visas between various ethnic and religious groups and mainly minorities, is an inexplicable as it is an outrageous injustice and discriminatory,” said Manna. “While the previous administration has issued a genocide declaration for the atrocities ISIS committed against Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other ethno-religious minorities, the number of visas is not proportionate to the number of individuals and families who suffer or have been purged by ISIS.”
President Trump did state the administration would prioritize Christians in 2017, but the item was later struck down. “The administration should request to prioritize ethnic and religious minorities that have been victims of genocide,” stated Manna in the documents to the Vice President.
Currently there are many Christian Iraqis at risk of begin deported. On June 11, 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began arresting and detaining a large number of nationals – mostly Chaldeans – in preparation for deportation. In July of last year, the District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan issued a preliminary injunction barring the government from executing removal orders against petitioners.
Manna also noted to the Vice President that during a visit to Michigan, President Donald Trump met with Congressional Member’s John Moolenar, Jack Bergman and Paul Mitchell and was briefed about Chaldeans at-risk of deportations. “President Trump stated his willingness to find a solution,” said Manna, “which can be confirmed by the Members of Congress.”
The meeting and follow up documentations were designed to further educate this current administration on Chaldeans in America and around the globe. “We will continue with this dialogue,” said Manna. “It is important that all of our elected leaders from the President on down understand our community, our needs and how we have contributed to the fabric of this country.”
Vice President Pence did acknowledge the issues and asked that his staff immediately follow-up on the issues.