President Trump Promised to Protect Persecuted Christians; Now, he’s Sending Them Back to Iraq

Friends and family view a bus outside the U.S. Detention and Deportation Center in Detroit on Sunday. A mass immigration and deportation sweep and arrest of dozens of Chaldeans in southeastern Michigan by U.S. immigration officials prompted the protest outside the detention center. (Gus Burns/The Ann Arbor News via AP)

Dozens of Iraqi Christians were rounded up by immigration authorities in Detroit this week, separated from their families and are about to be deported even though they have lived in the United States for decades. I have one question: Where is the outcry from my fellow Christians, especially those who view much of the world through the lens of Christian persecution?

I don’t think this is a cut-and-dry case. I don’t think these individuals were rounded up because they are Christian. I know immigration authorities say they have criminal records. Sending them back to Iraq is not an automatic death sentence, but being a Christian in Iraq is hard.

If you are a Christian, you should be deeply troubled by the deportation of your sisters and brothers from Detroit. Because persecution is real — and it has little to do with some of the silly issues that American Christians complain about so easily.

Our president — elected with the overwhelming support of white evangelicals — has repeatedly pledged to champion the cause of persecuted Christians, especially those from the Middle East. Yet in this case, his policies could inadvertently contribute to the persecution of Christians.

Many of these immigrants fear for their safety if they are sent back to Iraq. While it’s possible to live — and even thrive — as a Christian in Iraq, many Assyrians and Chaldeans have known immense hardship because of their faith. Many of them were marginalized by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which is why some of those now facing deportation came to the United States.

Christian persecution intensified after the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the sectarian war that followed. When the Islamic State swept onto the scene in 2014, they targeted Christians and other minorities for extermination, prompting the House of Representatives and the State Department to recognize these groups as victims of genocide. Christians are a tiny fraction of the total population, probably less than 1 percent, and they are not allowed to share their faith with non-Christians.

The immigration sweep in Detroit took place after Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration, which was signed in March. The revised version removed Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority nations affected by the order — but only after Iraq agreed to U.S. demands to allow the deportation of Iraqi citizens from America.

Yes, they may be legally deportable. But none of this means the Department of Homeland Security is required to deport them. Many committed their crimes decades ago and served their time.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Jeremy Courtney