With a renewed threat of deportation, lawmakers stand with the community
By Ashourina Slewo
U.S. Representative Andy Levin, Brenda Lawrence, and Rashida Tlaib convened at the Chaldean Community Foundation on Saturday, April 6 for a press conference led by Levin regarding the fate of hundreds of Iraqi nationals as the fear of deportation continues to loom.
The press conference was held in light of a recent decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that once again places members of the community in danger of being deported. Going into effect on Tuesday, April 9, the decision from the Sixth Circuit Court gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the go ahead needed to deport Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal.
In attendance were community leaders, lawyers, affected families, and former detainees eager to hear Congressman Levin’s plans to work with other lawmakers in finding a political solution that would buy time for those in danger.
In response to the Sixth Circuit’s reversal of Detroit Federal Judge Mark Goldsmith’s order to grant bond, Representatives Levin and John Moolenar penned a letter calling on the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE Acting Director Ronald D. Vitiello to halt the deportation of Iraqi nationals as it would be dangerous in Iraq where “they may be subject to torture or murder.” Currently, this bipartisan letter has been signed by a total of 23 lawmakers.
Many of the lawmakers who signed the letter represent districts with a large number of Iraqi born communities, with Representative Levin representing the largest Iraqi born district in the country. Representative Lawrence’s district has the second largest Iraqi born community.
“Never did I think it would come to this,” said Congresswoman Lawrence of the threat of deportation hanging over several Iraqi nationals. “I truly know the impact the Iraqi Chaldean community has made to our economy and to our communities.”
“It breaks my heart,” she said.
The congresswoman has worked closely with the Chaldean community during her time in office, especially during her time as the mayor of Southfield, and vowed at the press conference that she would continue to do so as they fight to buy themselves time.
Calling for fairness, Representative Levin urged for DHS and ICE to allow each case to be heard individually in immigration court. “This is not about politics,” he said. “It’s about fairness and humanity.” Echoing his sentiments, fairness and the opportunity to have their day in court is all the community asks for.
It would be unconscionable, said Representative Levin, to move forward with the mass detention and deportation of these individuals. Many of those impacted by this decision are Chaldean Christians who would face religious persecution if deported to Iraq. Moreover, says Levin, many of those now facing deportation have only ever known life in the United States.
“Many of the people affected by this decision have known no home except for America, and they have nothing to return to,” he explained.
Several of the speakers agreed that the immigration system is broken. As a former immigration attorney, Representative Tlaib is hopeful that the system may change as a result of this crisis.
“We haven’t been able to make this system more humane,” she explained.
Seeking a political solution to this issue, Martin Manna, President of the Chaldean Community Foundation, looked to the members of Congress present at the event and beyond for help as it has yet to come from the administration, despite pleas from the community.
“I don’t think there is going to be relief coming from this administration,” he said.
Not all is lost, though, says Margo Schlanger, lead ACLU attorney in the Hamama V. Adducci class action lawsuit. She urges Iraqi nationals at risk to continue fighting their individual immigration cases.
“The situation is very tough, but it’s not hopeless. We’re going to keep fighting and we have a lot of allies that will keep fighting with us,” she explained. “Those in detention need to fight and people who have opened their cases need to fight in immigration court because when we fight, we win.”
According to Schlanger, after April 9 Iraqi nationals who still remain in detention, those who have been released and have yet to request an immigrations hearing, or those who failed to convince a judge to allow them an immigration hearing face deportation.