'Death sentence' deportation of Iraqi Christians stayed after ACLU court action

Chaldean Christians warn deporting them back to Iraq amounts to a death sentence.Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union is trying to prevent the Trump administration from deporting 114 Iraqi Christians who were arrested in Michigan earlier this month.

Christian Today reported the crackdown on the Chaldean Christians, some of whom were said to have criminal records. 'Many who were picked up are not hardened criminals but for the last decades have been great citizens,' said the local Chaldean bishop in Detroit, where there is the largest community of Chaldean Christians outside Iraq.

Now the ACLU has won an initial delay in the deportations.

It filed a class-action petition and a motion for a temporary restraining order on Thursday. 'Not only is it immoral to send people to a country where they are likely to be violently persecuted, it expressly violates United States and international law and treaties,' said Kary Moss, the executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.

She added, 'We are hoping that the courts will recognize the extreme danger that deportation to Iraq would pose for these individuals... Our immigration policy shouldn't amount to a death sentence for anyone.'

Trump has previously promised to protect Christians in the Middle East and to prioritise Christian refugees. The ACLU says Shia Muslims and Yazidis – both persecuted minorities in parts of Iraq – have also been targeted in the crackdown.

The Christian population in Iraq has collapsed since the US led invasion in 2003 and the subsequent civil war and the rise of ISIS. Some estimates suggest the number has dropped from 1.4 million to 275,000 as a result of persecution, civil unrest and economic deprivation.