Death sentence: The US Christians fearing deadly family deportation to Iraq

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

An American Iraqi Christian family is one among more than 100 fearing the deportation of loved ones to Iraq, where the threat of genocide at the hands of ISIS remains high.

Brittanny Hamama is part of a Chaldean (Iraqi Catholic Christian) family, but her father was arrested by US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 11, alongside 113 other Iraqi Christians. She reported her experience in a piece for America Magazine

She described the morning of Sunday 11 June, when her family were preparing to head to church.

'ICE agents pounded on our door at 9:30 am on a Sunday morning as we were getting ready to go to Mass. The agents said that they were doing a house check. They then said that they just needed my dad to come in and be interviewed by the Iraqi consulate. They promised that he would be back the next day. The agents even told my mom to expect a phone call the next day when she could come pick him up. My dad and I looked at each other, and we knew they were lying to us.'

Hamama, a student in her junior year at the University of Michigan says that Chaldeans are 'facing genocide by ISIS in Iraq because of our Christian faith'. Many of the 300,000 Iraqi Christians now residing in the US originally fled Iraq because of the violence there.

Hamama's father has not been returned home. She described the threat of deportation: 'Because of my dad's hard work as a business owner, our family was, until now, living the American dream. My dad does not know the language in Iraq, and he has a tattoo of a cross on his wrist; sending him back to Iraq is essentially a death sentence.'

Hamama's family have received support from the human rights advocacy group The American Civil Liberties Union, who 'has filed a lawsuit on behalf of my father and all the other Chaldeans who were detained in early June. The lawsuit argues that people cannot be sent to a country where they could be the target of genocide.'


Chaldean Christians protested against the arrests outside ICE facilities in Detroit.Reuters

At 2pm today in Detroit, Hamama will attend her father's hearing at the federal courthouse. She implored prayer 'for the lawyers and politicians as well as the judge who will be hearing our case'.

Hamama described how her Christian faith was helping her at this time. She wrote: 'The one thing that has been getting me and my family through this all has been the power of prayer. I know that the rosary my dad has with him right now is the reason he is still in Michigan.

'I know that going to the grotto at our church at least once a day with my siblings has brought comfort and peace to the situation we are going through. I know God has a plan, and although this has been a painful experience, I trust in God's will.'

The threat of deadly deportation has prompted criticism of the Trump administration, and concerns about the US Christian community's relative silence on the issue.

 Last week it was reported that the ACLU had won a delay in the deportations.

'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.'