For more than a year now, members of the Chaldean community in Michigan have been unjustly detained and threatened with deportation to a country where they could face violent persecution and death for their religious beliefs.
This process has upended families and done tremendous harm to a community of patriotic people who have made significant contributions to their adopted homeland.
I have been working with my colleagues in the Michigan congressional delegation and with Martin Manna, the leader of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation, to resolve this issue.
Martin has been a tireless advocate and the Chaldean community could not ask for a better person to have on its side.
Martin and I have met with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the White House, and Congressional leadership.
We have not yet received the outcome we have worked toward but we will not give up.
On April 12, I introduced a bipartisan House resolution with other members of the Michigan delegation, calling for the Administration to end the detention of Chaldeans. It also calls on the Administration to use its executive authority and discretion to “defer deportation for Iraqi Chaldeans living in the United States.”
Ending the detention and threat of deportation would be consistent with federal policy because the federal government also recognizes that Christians are the victims of genocide in Iraq.
In the past few years, we have all seen the news reports documenting the dangerous conditions facing everyday citizens in Iraq. It would be even more difficult for returning Chaldeans, many of whom left the country with their parents as small children. They would have no homes or communities to return to upon arrival and worse yet, they could face the same violent persecution of religious minorities that has caused death and destruction throughout Iraq.
My colleagues and I recognize that the Administration cares deeply about the issue of religious liberty. We want the Administration to show its support for these faithful people of our state by ending the threat of deportation for those who peacefully live out their beliefs in the United States, safe from persecution.
Throughout America’s history, millions of people have come to this country seeking refuge from religious persecution. Freedom of religion is a First Amendment right, and while many of us may take it for granted, it is truly one of the freedoms that makes our country exceptional.
The Chaldean community in Michigan has made contributions to our state and our country. Chaldeans have raised families, started businesses, supported civic organizations and done so much to make a difference.
The Michigan delegation will continue to work with members of Congress from other states who share our belief in the importance of religious freedom. We are not giving up and we will keep fighting for the Chaldean community because no one deserves to be deported to a country where they could face violent persecution for their faith.
Congressman John Moolenaar, a Republican, represents Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
CONGRESSMAN JOHN MOOLENAAR SPECIAL TO THE CHALDEAN NEWS