Iraqi Immigrants and Supporters in Detroit Block Buses, Take to the Streets to Stop Vicious ICE Roundups

June 16, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |



The horror and outrage from the Detroit Iraqi community was immediate.  Over the June 10th weekend, at least 114 Iraqi immigrants—nearly all Chaldean Christians, members of a branch of the Catholic Church with ancient roots in Iraq and Syria—were rounded up in SWAT-team type raids by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents.  About 100 family members and supporters responded quickly, rallying outside the downtown Detroit ICE center Sunday afternoon, terrified that their husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, grandparents, or other loved ones were facing deportation—and a likely death sentence—if sent back to Iraq.  When a bus tried to pull out in the middle of the night headed to the Youngstown, Ohio detention center, protesters blocked it.  Only after the police repeatedly shoved the protesters out of the way was the bus able to get through. 

Protests have continued daily since then, with people going into the street on Michigan Avenue crying, “Stop deportations—Bring our families home,” and holding press conferences.  And two U.S. Representatives are expected to attend a huge demonstration called for Friday afternoon, June 16, at the Immigration Center in downtown Detroit. 

At least two hundred Iraqi immigrants have so far been reported arrested and facing deportation in a major series of targeted raids carried out by Trump’s rabid ICE agents. The focus of their attack was on Detroit, which is home to around 150,000 Chaldeans—the largest population outside of the Middle East.  A great majority have come here as refugees in the past few decades, fleeing war, despotism, and deprivation.  And in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraqi Chaldeans have also been fleeing persecution as minority Christians who are being systematically targeted and killed by ISIS and other jihadist groups.  Thirty arrests of Iraqi Kurds took place in Nashville, which has the largest U.S. population of Iraqi Kurds.

None of those arrested were undocumented, and none were in violation of the law.  They were rounded up for deportation because at some time in their past—in most cases decades ago—they had been convicted of and punished for a crime.  They had received removal orders at that time, but they were not deported and only required to check in regularly, because of the wars and the on-going persecution of Christians.  A large number of these Iraqis were children when they came here as refugees.  Then, having gotten in trouble with the law when they were much younger, they did their time and then went on to work, marry and raise families.

Nevertheless, in a disgusting and life-threatening lie, ICE officials are justifying their massive assault by saying they are “address(ing) the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested.”  Think about this: from the viewpoint of this bourgeois legal system—now taken to a whole new level by the Trump/Pence fascist regime and their ICE and Border Patrol goons—one of the most fundamental tenets of the law does not apply to immigrants:  According to them, immigrants who are convicted of a crime and serve their sentence are criminals for the rest of their lives.  And in this racist society, Black and other oppressed people are treated the same way. 

One man convicted of marijuana use as a teenager decades ago has been arrested.  And a 55-year-old man arrested Sunday morning immigrated with his family in 1977—40 years ago.  He has a wife and children here, but no relatives in Iraq.  He doesn’t speak Iraqi Arabic, and doesn’t know the culture.  How is he going to survive?  “Donald Trump has essentially given these Christians a death sentence,” said the founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation, which helps Iraqi minorities. They are among a number of groups, including the ACLU, who are planning to file or have already filed lawsuits to stop these deportations, including raising the fact that it is a violation of international law to deport people back to a war zone.

According to ICE officials, these raids were a result of a deal struck between the Trump/Pence regime and the Iraqi government.  The U.S. agreed to remove Iraq from Trump’s travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, and Iraq will now accept the return of Iraqi nationals facing orders of removal.  But more than that, it appears the Trump/Pence regime has now unleashed its immigration enforcers to single out immigrants from the seven countries of the Middle East listed in their original Muslim travel ban.  In April ICE agents terrified people in the Somali immigrant community in Atlanta, GA, using the same method of rounding up anyone from Somalia who in the past had ever become “deportable.”

And ICE has only begun these criminal roundups.  They have announced that they have a list of 1,444 “deportable” Iraqis that they fully intend to arrest and deport; and they have 4,801 Somalis on a similar list as well.  

An activist and founder of a local charter school for hundreds of refugee children in Detroit opened up the school immediately for families to get legal representation, and has put out a call to action.  “I really can’t put into words what I saw today,” he said.  “Today, I’m ashamed to be an American.”  With real courage these immigrants and their supporters are daring to stand up against the escalating crimes the Trump/Pence regime and their thug enforcers are carrying out.  People everywhere have got to join them.  These roundups cannot become the “new normal.” They must be resisted—and stopped!    





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