Judge urged to reunite Iraqi detainees with family

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Relatives of hundreds of detained Iraqi nationals are pleading with a federal judge to reunite them with their Metro Detroit loved ones this holiday season.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith this week received 129 letters requesting that some of the remaining 300 detainees of 1,400 swept up in raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this summer, be sent home.

Siblings (from left) John Elia, 13, Jarvis Elia, 14 and Gina Elia, 15, of Sterling heights all have one wish for Christmas: to have their father home. Their dad Hates Elia was detained by ICE agents in June and has been held in Youngstown since.

The letters, many handwritten, were submitted to the court by wives, children, employers, religious figures and the detainees themselves in support of their release.

Family letters and photographs were filed with the court Wednesday by the Chaldean Community Foundation, an arm of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce.

Most of the detainees are being housed in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.

“It has been a living nightmare and our hears are broken,” Angela Daoud, wife of detainee Yani Daoud, wrote in her letter to the judge, noting the center where her husband is behind housed won’t permit visitors on Christmas and that children aren’t allowed.

“... my son and I have not seen Yani in 4 months because it is a 6-7 hour drive from where we live and they do not allow children anyway,” she added.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in June and was granted a preliminary injunction by Goldsmith the following month that halted deportation of the detainees until each has their own case in court.

The government appealed. Immigration officials have said those targeted in the raids committed crimes since their time in the United States and have forfeited their right to remain in the country.

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a motion arguing the Iraqis are being held unjustly.

Arguments in the case were held Wednesday on three key points which included whether the case should be certified as a class-action lawsuit, having the detainees released while they await bond hearings and the federal government’s motion to have the case dismissed altogether.

Margo Schlanger, who is among the attorneys representing the detainees, told Goldsmith Wednesday that prolonged detention of the detainees denies them due process since the cases are going to drag on for months or years, affecting the detainees’ liberty, health and their families.

Jon Khoshaba, 56, a Chaldean from Sterling Heights chants for the release of the Iraqi detainees on Dec 20.

After more than four hours of testimony, Goldsmith said Wednesday he would issue a written opinion but did not specify when.

Meantime, detainees and their relatives contend they are suffering grievous harm.

Jennifer Marogi writes that her husband, Dorid Marogi, was taken on June 11 while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

Because of the stress her family endured, she wrote, her baby was born prematurely.

“Kayden which is 19 weeks now...has a hole in his heart and his lung. Which we pray will close on its own and not with surgery,” she wrote. “He has yet to meet his dad.”

Jennifer Marogi writes that her oldest son Kyle, 14, has shut down and two other children, Kaleb, 13, and Khloe, 8, have anxiety attacks.

“I have a fear of my kids falling into a deeper depression, that I won’t be able to help them get out of...,” the letter says. “My deepest fear is that my children and I will never be able to hug and see him again.”

As to whether the judge will consider the letters, ACLU attorney Miriam Auckerman said one factor the judge will have to decide is whether detention causes irreparable harm.

“That human cost is central to the legal analysis that the judge will have to undertake,” Auckerman said. “The letters are the most powerful evidence one can imagine of the incalculable human suffering that is imposed by ICE’s deportation machine.”

Relatives say detainees would face religious persecution and even death as Christians, a religious minority, by returning to Iraq.

Sisters Ashley and Ashourina Slewo said their father, Warda Slewo, was picked up on June 11 at his home in Madison Heights. Slewo served time in jail and probation before serving in the U.S. Army.

“If he is deported, he will face persecution. He left Iraq in 1993 with my mother to start a better life,” said Ashourina Slewo, who also submitted one of the letters.

“He will face persecution for a number of things, the first being that he served in the U.S. Army. He was also drafted into the Republican Guard, which makes him a target,” she said. “And like the other detainees, he’s Christian and will face persecution for that fact alone.”

Christmas is going to be hard this year for the family, said Ashourina Slewo, noting she usually attends church with her parents, older sister and two younger brothers on Christmas before exchanging gifts.

“My little brother is the only one we got gifts for because this has already affected him so much, we don’t have the heart to deny him this, too,” she said. “I will have to spend Christmas waiting by the phone for my dad to call.”