Community rallies to stop Chaldean deportations

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Relatives, advocates and lawmakers rallied Friday outside of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building against the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi-American immigrants arrested in raids last weekend.

Event organizers contend sending the majority-Chaldean detainees to Iraq will put them in jeopardy of genocide by ISIS for being Christians.

“We want to make sure that people are aware of the human rights catastrophe that’s unfolding here,” said Martin Manna, 45, a rally organizer and president of the Sterling Heights-based Chaldean Community Foundation.

“How can our country violate laws and send people to places they can be harmed and killed,” he added. “It’s basic human rights.”

Manna said Friday the group is asking that the process be slowed and that special consideration is given to the group, he said, have contributed to the metropolitan Detroit society.

The immigrants being held were chosen for their past felony history. For most, supporters said, the offenses date back decades and the individuals have served their sentence.

U.S. Reps. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, and Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, joined the group in Detroit Friday to protest the deportations.

“There’s no real threat here. These crimes committed decades ago are the only reason the government knows where they are because they followed orders and reported to courts all those years,” said Levin, adding U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly has said federal authorities are focused on “the worst of the worst.”

Levin said spoke with federal immigration authorities this week and is seeking a copy of the written agreement between the United States government and Iraq, as well as measures to confirm the detainees’ safety.

One of them is Yani Daoud, a resident of Warren who was arrested Monday at his home. His sister, Susie David, 48, said Daoud is married with kids and unknowingly signed deportation papers ordered by a judge without a lawyer present.

“He had a felony with weed and did six months and did everything right,” David said. “I feel so sorry for all of them. His birthday is Wednesday…he’ll be 40.”

Sam Hamama was picked up by ICE on his way to church with family on Sunday. His daughter Britanny, 20, and wife, Nahrain, spoke at the rally.

“He was taken for a felony committed 30 years ago. He knows nothing but America,” Nahrain said. “We’re not Iraqis, we’re Americans.”

Meantime, a hearing is expected Wednesday in U.S. District Court over a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union. The group is asking a federal judge to halt removal of the detainees until its determined whether they are entitled to protection.

The ACLU, in the lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, argues it’s illegal to deport the detainees without giving them an opportunity to prove they could face torture or death if returned to Iraq.

Federal immigration authorities have defended the arrests, saying that all of those rounded up had been convicted of crimes and were subject to deportation.

Another rally is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Nelson Park, 2775 15 Mile Road, in Sterling Heights.

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Twitter: @SarahRahal_