Judge blocks US attempt to send Iraqi Christians back to face perils of ISIS

Supporters of the detained Chaldean Christians outside a court in Detroit, Michigan.Reuters

A US federal district judge has intervened to block the deportation of over 100 Iraqi Christians who were arrested earlier month in Michigan.

The 114 mostly Chaldean believers were rounded up because they had some kind of criminal record, according to authorities. But their lawyers claim it's unfair to send them back to Iraq, where the US government has acknowledged a genocide against Christians is taking place. 

The American Civil Liberties Union had been fighting the case on behalf of the Christians and now judge Mark Goldsmith has put a temporary halt to their deportation. He ordered a two week delay, after which he will rule again.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the Iraqis in Michigan, said: 'The court's action today was legally correct and may very well have saved numerous people from abuse and possible death.'

'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.

The order from the judge bans deportation of 'all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE field office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by ICE, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations'.

Community spokespeople have asked why the group isn't gaining more support from evangelical leaders across America. 'They could be doing a lot more,' said Martin Hanna of the Chaldean Community Foundation. Speaking to RNS, he went on: 'They could be saying, "Wait, we have been fighting to protect these people in their ancestral lands and now we are sending them back to those areas that we're not doing enough to protect?'"

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