U.S. Rep. Andy Levin at the “Take on Hate” rally in Dearborn, Aug. 29, 2019 | Allison Donahue
A bipartisan group of Michigan members of Congress have signed on to letters seeking to halt the forced repatriation of Iraqi nationals.
On Monday, U.S Reps. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.), John Moolenaar (R-Midland) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) led seven colleagues in signing a letter urging U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to provide long-term relief for Iraqis with orders of removal.
A similar letter was also sent to the chair and ranking members of the House Committee on the Judiciary and Subcommittee on Immigration, requesting they take up consideration of H.R. 4273, the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act.
The bill, sponsored by Levin in June 2021 and referred to the Judiciary Committee the same day, was only advanced to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship on Nov. 1.
According to the letters, numerous Iraqis, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution if they are forced back to Iraq against their will.
“The threats to religious minorities in Iraq are well-documented and of particular concern,” stated the lawmakers. “The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 detail numerous examples of discrimination faced by Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities. We are gravely concerned that, if deported, individuals would very likely face torture or murder due to their religious beliefs or their ethnicity.”
A 2018 ruling from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Hamama v. Adducci case removed protections from approximately 1,400 Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal, meaning they could face immediate deportation.
A previous attempt to pass the legislation was put forth in 2019, but never got out of committee and died when the 116th Congress expired at the end of 2020.
This time, the lawmakers noted that those facing deportation have family and employment connections in the United States and deserve to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“As of today, more than 1,000 Iraqi nationals still face deportation and the risk of death if sent to Iraq,” concluded the letter to Mayorkas. “We stand ready to work with you to ensure that Iraqi nationals are protected, and families are not torn apart.”
Levin currently represents the 9th Congressional District, which has the largest Iraqi-born community of any congressional district in the country, according to U.S. census data. The seat was held by his father, former U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Southfield), who also advocated for Iraqi immigrants.
While Levin lost to U.S Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Waterford Twp.) in the August primary and will be leaving Congress, Stevens also signed on to the letters, along with Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor), Tim Walberg (R-Tipton), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Twp.).
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