The crackdowns on illegal immigrants in the United States have taken a toll on the Christian community from Iraq. While the US is rounding up many of the illegals for deportation, a call is going out to stop the deportations of this particular group as they face as their advocates call a “death sentence” if they are returned to Iraq.

The Chaldean community in Detroit has been hard hit by the roundup. Detroit has been a hub for Iraqis immigrating to the United States and the Christian community is very big there.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) arrested more than 200 Iraqi nationals over the weekend who have been the subject of deportation orders following criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.

One hundred and fourteen people were detained in Detroit alone, most of whom are members of Iraq’s Chaldean minority – which, like other Christian groups, has been targeted for persecution by Islamic State and other jihadist groups.

Najah Konja, 55, who was arrested in Detroit on Sunday morning, immigrated to the US with his family in 1977. No other relatives remain in Iraq, according to his brother, Shoki “Steve” Konja.

“What is he going to do there?” Steve Konja, a US citizen, told the Guardian. “Basically, they are sentencing him to death.”

Konja said his brother does not speak Arabic, and that the last member of their family to leave Iraq was kidnapped twice and held for ransom because of his relatives in the US. “The government of Iraq cannot protect and defend its own citizens – let alone a bunch of Christians coming from the US,” Konja said.

These concerns were echoed by advocates including the Minority Humanitarian Foundation (MHF), which provides aid to Iraqi minorities. MHF planned to file a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportation of Chaldeans to Iraq.

“Donald Trump has essentially given these Christians a death sentence,” said MHF founder and president, Mark Arabo.

Ice spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said an “overwhelming majority” of those arrested were convicted for crimes including “homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses”.

In Detroit, Christensen said the operation “was specifically conducted to address the very real public safety threat represented by the criminal aliens arrested”.

But community advocates scoffed at that claim, arguing many of the charges were handed down decades ago and those convicted had served their sentences for the crimes.

It is curious that the two groups of Iraqis hardest hit by the roundup by ICE are the Christians in Detroit and the Kurds in Nashville. Neither would fare well if forced back to the country of their birth. Some of the immigrants have been here decades and have turned their lives around. But face deportation for criminal offenses committed and paid for years ago.

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Photo courtesy AP

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