Congressmen Levin, Moolenaar introduce bill to provide relief for Iraqi nationals facing deportation

The bipartisan Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act will grant two years of relief from detention and deportation for Iraqi nationals with orders of removal.  

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI-09) and Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI-04) late yesterday introduced H.R. 2537, or the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act, which will provide relief to Iraqi nationals who have orders of removal.

The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Reps. Josh Harder (CA-10), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Susan Davis (CA-53), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jack Bergman (MI-01), Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Justin Amash (MI-03), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Fred Upton (MI-06), Tim Walberg (MI-07), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), and Al Green (TX-09).

Read the bill text HERE.

Plans to introduce the bill were announced this past Friday at a press conference ahead of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner with Congresswomen Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens.

“This is about fairness and this is about humanity,” Congressman Levin said. “Iraqi nationals with orders for removal must have the time it takes to have their cases heard individually in immigration court. Numerous Iraqi nationals, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution for their religion, their ethnicity or their ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will. It is our duty to do everything we can to protect them.

“This situation is so dire that it demands a legislative solution and complementary action by the Executive Branch. The bipartisan bill that we are introducing today will grant necessary relief from deportation for two years, and finally provide some clarity for a community that has faced perilous uncertainty for too long.”

“Chaldean Christians living in Michigan came here years ago to escape persecution similar to what we see happening now to Christians around the world,” Congressman Moolenaar said. “The homes and towns that many left behind in Iraq have been destroyed, and they have no family to return to. If they were to return they would face persecution because of their faith. The bipartisan legislation we are introducing will ensure due process and the rule of law for Chaldean Christians in Michigan and across the country.”

The bill would defer removal for 24 months for nationals of Iraq who have been ordered removed at any time prior to the bill’s enactment, and who resided in the United States on or before January 1, 2014. The bill would exclude from deferral those who pose a threat to national security, are returning voluntarily, or are subject to extradition. Authorization and documentation for the purposes of employment would be valid for the 24-month deferral to those who apply through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DHS would also be required to provide notice of these changes within two months of their enactment, and DHS would be prevented from detaining any individual who receives deferral for the 24-month period.

Last month, Congressmen Levin and Moolenaar led a letter signed by more than 20 bipartisan lawmakers from around the country to DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requesting deferral of wholesale detention and deportation of affected Iraqi nationals, which would allow for time to have each case heard individually in immigration court.

Following the announcement that the heads of both DHS and ICE were departing, the congressmen, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence requesting intervention based on his history of advocating for persecuted Christians abroad.

According to U.S. Census data, Michigan’s 9th District, represented by Congressman Levin, has the largest Iraqi-born community of any congressional district in the country.

Congressman Levin also penned an op-ed in The Detroit News making the case for deferral and detailing the dangers faced by Iraqis should they be deported.