Posted by Arab American Institute on June 12, 2017 in Blog

The Arab American Institute is deeply disturbed by news of the detentions and planned deportation of Arab Americans from our Chaldean and broader Iraqi community. The clear majority of these individuals are family men and successful members of their community who have taken responsibility for past offenses. Some attorneys are suggesting that to detain and deport them after they have already paid their debt to society subjects them to double jeopardy. Additionally, since their deportation means they will be returned to an active conflict zone, it’s a sentence that could cost them their lives. 

Not unlike other immigrant communities facing this same challenge, many of these individuals came to this country as children, made mistakes in their youth but have since become productive Americans, and more importantly, loving parents to U.S. born children. Some profiles of Iraqis facing deportation from a recent Washington Post article include:

  • A 46-year-old Dad of three, and Little League coach who, as a teenager, received a drug conviction and served 15 years.
  • A 48-year-old entrepreneur, who as a teen, was convicted on a drug charge and served 17 years. He has not seen Iraq since he was four years old.
  • A 43-year-old, who as a young man threw a bottle at the wall of a night club and served two years for assault. A sentence he completed two decades ago.
  • A 30-year-old man who left Iraq at age 2. His deportation order is related to marijuana possession at age 17.

An estimated 1,400 Iraqi nationals have final orders of removal. It is believed their detentions and deportations are a direct result of an Executive Order issued by President Trump on January 25. In recent years, Iraq has refused to repatriate individuals who lacked proper documents, which would likely include many of the 1,400 now at risk. But a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has recently said, "As a result of recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal." And, according to an Assistant U.S. Attorney, “Iraq has agreed to accept Iraqi nationals removed from the United States using a less stringent identity-verification process and without travel documents.”

The Arab American Institute opposes extreme enforcement actions which divide families and endanger deportees. 

“Like so many immigrant communities, Arab Americans are facing harsh enforcement policies that not only threaten to tear families apart but also endanger the lives of those being deported. In many cases, both in the Arab American community and in other allied communities, these individuals don’t recognize or know the countries they are being sent to. They don’t speak the language or have familial connections because so many of them left these places when they were small children. Yet they face losing the only country they know along with their American families. To continue these types of deportations, of individuals who’ve already paid their debt to society, is an injustice. It is inhumane. And because it’s a matter of life and death in some cases, it is our moral obligation to stand against it,” said AAI Executive Director Maya Berry.