Protesters gather in front of Detroit federal building calling for end of Chaldean deportations

Last Updated by Will Glover on

The Chaldean Deportation Protest - June 2017

Bill Kubota, One Detroit/Detroit Journalism Cooperative

UPDATED June 27, 2017: The detained Chaldeans will have a stay of two weeks starting today – they’ll remain in the U.S. until at least July 10th

Lafayette Boulevard in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit was closed to traffic and packed with hundreds of protesters June 21st, calling for the end of deportations after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up more than 100 Chaldeans with criminal records two weekends ago.

Many in attendance have loved ones who are now in ICE’s custody.

Chaldeans are Iraqi Christians, and according the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, Southeastern Michigan has more Chaldeans than anywhere outside of Iraq.

Wisam Naoum, a leader of the protest and an attorney with Code Legal Aid, which has been working with some of the detainees, said ICE’s actions this month are “a double whammy,” where they’ve already paid their debt to society, and now they’re paying for it again.

Chaldean Rally 2.JPGDozens of red crosses and flags were carried by protesters in front of Detroit’s Federal Building.

 Many of the detained had run-ins with the law decades ago, according to Naoum, and some were common infractions like marijuana possession or driving while intoxicated.

“To us it just looks like low-hanging fruit so you can appeal to your base,” said Naoum, referring to the Trump administration’s efforts to deport more people.

 Naoum said there are around 150 Chaldeans who have been detained. 

114 were picked up two Sundays ago, but ICE has colleceted more since then.

Among those attending the protest, the fear is their loved ones are being sent back to a country where they could be persecuted for being Christians.

Last fall, Father Anthony Kathawa of the St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church in West Bloomfield met with Donald Trump before he was elected and blessed him.

 He said a lot of the Chaldean community threw its support to Trump last fall but now he feels betrayed.

Chaldean Rally 3.JPGSeveral posters pictured President Trump. Many Chaldeans supported Trump but are now disappointed with him as ICE has targeted them for depo

 “He’s the one who actually declared that Christians had no future in the Middle East,” Father Kathawa said, “Vice President Pence said that it’s a genocide for Christians in Iraq. How did everything flip and why is everything happening to us? It’s a question we just can’t get answers to.”

The ACLU along with Code Legal Aid filed suit, seeking more time for the detainees to be able to fight their deportations legally.

Last week, Bill Kubota (One Detroit/Detroit Journalism Cooperative) recently covered the Chaldean deportation protests in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit. 

Last night, Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press released an article stating that U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith has ordered a nationwide halt to the deportations:

"To the chagrin of the government, a Detroit federal judge today protected 1,444 Iraqi immigrants nationwide from being immediately deported, including some who faced possible eviction from the U.S. as early as Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued his emergency order just moments ago, concluding the Iraqi nationals  -- most of them Christians -- could face persecution if sent back home and deserve more time to seek legal intervention. He said the case presents "extreme circumstances" and gave all Iraqi nationals who face potential deportation another two weeks to legally challenge their removals."

To read the full article, visit: http://on.freep.com/2rXctat

One Detroit and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative will continue to the follow the story as it unfolds.

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