Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers carried out a series of raids in the Detroit metropolitan area over the weekend, detaining between 90 and 300 Iraqi nationals who they say have criminal records.
Khaalid Walls, a spokesperson for ICE, said that the Iraqis arrested over the weekend had convictions on crimes “including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”
He added that every one of them received “full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law.”
But families of those taken say that offenses were far less egregious: renting a car and letting someone else drive it, for example, or marijuana possession. Some criminal charges are 20 years old.
One woman said a family member was taken from his hospital bed in the midst of cancer treatment.
Those detained are currently in holding in a federal facility in Youngstown, Ohio.
Attorneys representing the Iraqis scheduled to be deported say most of the immigrants are Christian, according to the Detroit Free Press, who spoke to those attorneys.
Eman Jajonie-Daman, a lawyer representing 25 of those scheduled for deportation, says that sending Iraqi Christians back to Iraq is “an egregious violation of human rights” as Christians are a persecuted minority in Iraq.
“We’re sending them to die,” Jajonie-Daman said.
ICE says the immigrants arrested were to be deported “as part of ICE’s efforts to process the backlog of these individuals,” and their removal to Iraq follows “recent negotiations” between the United States and Iraq.