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June 15, 2017 10:53 am

Mideast Christian Activists Concerned by Arrests of Iraqi Coreligionists in US

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Displaced Christians in cramped living conditions in Erbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: Aid to the Church in Need.

JNS.org – Middle East Christian activists are raising concern over raids by US authorities last weekend that resulted in the arrests of dozens of Christian-Iraqi nationals living in Michigan, as part of an effort by the Trump administration to deport illegal immigrants.

“[President Donald Trump] promised he would help us, when in fact he’s exacerbated problems now by sending people back to the hands of the Islamic State,” said Steve Oshana, an Assyrian-Christian activist representing A Demand for Action, an organization that “serves and advocates for victims of persecution in the Middle East,” Politico reported.

Iraqi Christians living illegally in the US are being detained following a deal reached between Iraq and the US as part of Trump’s so-called “travel ban” on six Muslim-majority countries. Iraq, which was originally included in Trump’s executive order in January, reached an understanding with US officials to accept deportations in exchange for being left off a revised list of Muslim-majority nations covered by the order.

The US Department of Homeland Security confirmed the arrests, saying the Iraqi nationals all had “criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”

Yet Mideast Christian activists say many of the detainees have been living in the US for decades, and that some committed crimes when they were younger and have served their time.

“They’re like sheep being sent to the slaughter,” Mark Arabo, president of The Minority Humanitarian Foundation, told The Gospel Herald. “There is no place for Christians in Iraq. If they are sent to Iraq, they will be mutilated, they will be forced to convert to Islam, or be massacred by ISIS. They will be vulnerable to the most heinous crimes you could think of.”

Arabo added that many of these Christians are surprised since “they did support President Trump mainly because they wanted to keep Americans safe. Sadly, it’s the ones that supported him that ended up being detained.”

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