As Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pounded on his front door, Ali Najim Al-Sadoon grabbed his wife and six children and hugged them. Moments later, the agents forced entry and arrested the 34-year-old Iraqi refugee, who had cut his tether to avoid deportation.
"They sentenced him to death," Al-Sadoon's wife, Belqis Florido, told The Detroit News. "He can't go back."
But he will go back, along with thousands of other Iraqi nationals and Chaldean Christians, if the Department of Homeland Security continues its nationwide crackdown on Middle Eastern immigrants. Al-Sadoon's arrest isn't surprising, and perhaps it's even justified. He was charged with breaking-and-entering in 2013 and a federal judge approved his removal orders while he was serving time in 2015. But hundreds of other arrests have rocked Michigan's 9th Congressional District, the largest Iraq-born community in the nation, and not all of them are so clear cut.
During the summer of 2017, more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including 114 from Michigan, were swept up in raids following President Trump's travel ban, which bars entry into the U.S. from seven countries, including Iraq. Many of the Iraqi nationals arrested were Chaldean Christians who had been forced to flee Iraq after facing religious persecution. If they are sent back, they will almost certainly be discriminated against and perhaps even killed.
Numerous lawsuits have been brought to try and prevent the deportations, and now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers hopes to aid their case with a bill that would grant Iraqi nationals relief from detainment and deportation while they await individual hearings before immigration judges. The bill would exclude those who pose a threat to national security. "Numerous Iraqi nationals, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution for their religion, their ethnicity, or their ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will," said Rep. Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan. "It is our duty to do everything we can to protect them ... This is about humanity."
Passing the bill would be complex and difficult, since Congress has little to no jurisdiction over immigration, and thus, deportation. But the legislators hope to gain the Trump administration's support, since the White House in particular has voiced its concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
The Trump administration can easily resolve this and stay the deportation orders. At the very least, Trump should give Iraqi nationals the opportunity to stand before an immigration judge before condemning them to return to a life they had to flee. Some cases will be complicated, such as Al-Sadoon's. Almost all of the migrants arrested committed crimes that made them deportable. But according to data collected by CODE Legal Aid, half of the 114 Iraqis arrested in Michigan were convicted of drug-related crimes, the vast majority of which were nonviolent.
These migrants broke the law, and they must face the legal consequences. But a system of justice can and should be judged by its capacity for mercy. Al-Sadoon served his time, and his wife, Florido, begs that he at least be given a chance to stay with his family.
"This is as close to a death penalty case as I have ever had," Shanta Driver, Al-Sadoon's lawyer, said. "His brother returned to Iraq four years ago and no one has ever heard from him."
Certainly, our laws must be upheld and justice must be swift if it is to last. But there are times when compassion should stay our hand. This is such a time.