US to deport 200 Iraqis in deal with Baghdad to avoid travel ban

US to deport 200 Iraqis in deal with Baghdad to avoid travel ban
US authorities have launched a crackdown on Iraqi immigrants as part of a deal in which Iraq will be removed from Trump's travel ban in return for accepting deportees.
2 min read
15 June, 2017
US immigration authorities have launched a massive crackdown on Iraqi immigrants. [Getty]
The US has launched a massive crackdown on Iraqi immigrants, as part of a deal which would see Iraq removed from a list of countries included in Donald Trump's travel ban in return for accepting deportees.

The latest actions come as part of the Trump's push to step up immigration enforcement and force countries to take back nationals deported from the US.

In March, a revised version of Trump's controversial travel ban - also referred to as a 'Muslim ban' due to all countries on the list having Muslim majorities - dropped Iraq from a list of countries slapped with a temporary travel ban to the US.

Since the agreement was reached with Iraq regarding deportees, eight Iraqi nationals have been deported.

As of 17 April, however, there were 1,444 Iraqi nationals with final orders for deportation, Gillian Christensen, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, told Reuters.

In the Detroit area, 114 Iraqi nationals were arrested last weekend with 85 detained across the country over the past three weeks.

'Death sentence' for Iraqi-Christians

Over half of those targeted in the immigration sweeps are Iraqi Chaldean Christians who fear they will be killed if returned back to Iraq.

Many have lived in the US so long that they no longer speak Arabic, immigration lawyers and activists say.

"It is very worrisome that ICE has signalled its intention to remove Chaldean Christians to Iraq where their safety not only cannot be guaranteed, but where they face persecution and death for their religious beliefs," Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Donald Trump has essentially given these Christians a death sentence," Mark Arabo, founder and president of Minority Humanitarian Foundation, told The Guardian.

Many Iraqi-Christians have had family members in Iraq kidnapped and held for ransom because they know they have relatives in the US.

"The government of Iraq cannot protect and defend its own citizens – let alone a bunch of Christians coming from the US," one member of the Chaldean community from Detroit told The Guardian.

Some of those arrested in recent weeks had criminal convictions for crimes including assault, rape, murder, burglary, drug trafficking, and other offenses.

But many of those slated to be deported came to the United States as children and have already served sentences for their crimes, some of which were committed over 25 years ago.

Iraqi officials have said diplomatic and consular missions are coordinating the US authorities to issue travel documents for the deportees.

Agencies contributed to this report