Iraqi Christians flee ISIS persecution only to find themselves behind bars in US

Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, pray at a school serving as a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq, on Sept. 6, 2014.Reuters

Fleeing persecution from Islamic State militants in Iraq, a group of Iraqi Christians managed to find their way to the United States thinking they would be allowed to stay as religious refugees and at last find safety and freedom.

It turned out their optimism was misplaced.

Upon arrival in San Diego, California, after landing in Mexico, the 27 Iraqi Christians were hauled off to jail, accused of illegal entry into the US.

In sharp contrast, some 300,000 immigrants from Muslim countries were welcomed into the United States last year.

This prompted Mark Arabo, spokesman for the Minority Humanity Foundation, to remark: "It's clear our border is open to everyone—except Christians."

A humanitarian group is now demanding the release of the 27 Iraqi Christians from a San Diego detention centre.

The detainees, known as Chaldeans, are being kept at the Otay Detention Facility. They have been languishing in that facility for months upon the orders of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Arabo said his group will continue pressing for the release of the Chaldeans.

"We're going to protest. We're going to pray for the administration and the officials to open up their hearts and minds to the victims of genocide. We're not going to stop and we're going to hold them accountable," he said, according to CBN News.

Chaldean Aamer Moshi worked as an interpreter for the US Army in the Iraq war. Moshi lives in San Diego and hopes that his cousin Ziad Matty will join him.

Matty is under detention and his case will be heard this week.

"Ziad will not be harmful to this country, will not be a danger to this country. Let him go live with his family. It's not too much. He is young, he can work, he can pay taxes, he can be happy around his family, and his family will sponsor him," Moshi said.

The Chaldeans said what the US government did to them is another example why the US immigration system is broken.

Moshi said the early US troop withdrawal from Iraq is largely to blame for the ISIS rise to power.

"They did not finish the mission. And we cannot get papers to stay in America? Where should we go now?" Moshi said.

He asked: "When did the symbol of America become a gated fence as opposed to the Statue of Liberty?"

He cited the quote written in the Statue of Liberty, which said "Give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free."

Moshi said this quote doesn't seem to reflect the truth anymore as shown by what happened to the Chaldean refugees.

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