Bellwether

Is being Christian a crime in Michigan?

John Moody

A group of Iraqi Christians facing deportation under President Trump’s tough new border controls has been given a temporary reprieve, but could still be sent back to face what their attorney calls almost certain death.

A U.S. District Judge issued a stay this week on the deportation of 82 Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from the Detroit area, who have criminal records, but who have served their prison time and paid their debt to society.

Their lawyer, Clarence M. Dass, points out that some of those criminal convictions date back to the 1980s and 1990s and involve drugs and financial misdeeds, not violent crimes. He wonders if his clients have been targeted for deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency precisely because they are Christians. ICE denies that allegation.

“It’s peculiar to me that 99 percent of the people who were rounded up on June 10-11 were Chaldeans and Assyrians,” Dass told me. “In Michigan, only two Muslims are among those facing deportation. It seems weird that this happened after Congress declared Chaldeans and Assyrians victims of genocide.”

“It’s peculiar to me that 99 percent of the people who were rounded up on June 10-11 were Chaldeans and Assyrians,” Dass told me. “In Michigan, only two Muslims are among those facing deportation.”

Dass points out that ISIS still controls part of the city of Mosul, where most of the potential deportees come from, and to which they would be returned. He is asking for a stay on the deportation of any Iraqi Christians, who ISIS has targeted in the past with particular barbarity.

In a written response to Fox News, Khaalid Wells, an ICE spokesman, said: “We do not track the religious preference of detainees. And it’s worth repeating that ICE does not target individuals based on religion, ethnicity, gender or race.  Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false.”

Tell that to Hadeel Khalasawi, 43, a Chaldean Christian who sports a crucifix tattoo. He arrived in the U.S. at the age of one and was convicted of assault when he was a teenager. He was swept up in this month’s raids and now faces deportation. His wife, Sumar Zora, fears that his tattoo puts a bull’s-eye on him for ISIS.

Usama “Sam” Hamama, 54, came to Michigan when he was 11. Like Khalasawi, Sam committed his crimes – assault and possession of marijuana – as a teenager and served two years. His record since then has been spotless.

The U.S. Congress passed a resolution earlier this year designating Chaldean and Assyrian Christians the victims of attempted genocide by ISIS. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday permitted most of the government’s travel restrictions to be enforced. They were intended to keep terrorists out of the country, not remove religious refugees – even imperfect ones – who mean us no harm.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including "Pope John Paul II : Biography."