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by Kate Kooyman
Yesterday, a judge in Michigan heard arguments on behalf of a group of Iraqi immigrants who are facing deportation. If they are deported, they will probably die.
The majority of these immigrants are Chaldeans. Chaldeans are Catholic Christians in the Middle East. Their liturgy is written in a language that derives from Aramaic, the language of Jesus. They are rooted in the very place and culture and language of the Jesus we follow.
They are what we mean when we say “our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Chaldean Christians are a persecuted minority in Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Chaldeans have fled by the hundreds of thousands, seeking refuge from executions and torture. Those who remain live under the threat of ISIS.
They are what we mean when we say “the persecuted church.”
Donald Trump, during his presidential bid, promised to “do something” about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “If I run and I win, I will be the greatest representative of the Christians that they’ve had in a long time,” he promised. The votes of naturalized-citizen Chaldeans helped to elect the President.
They are who Vice President Pence was talking about when he said, “[The President] made it clear that America will stand by followers of Christ in this hour of need. ”
Defenders of the President’s policies are quick to point out that these immigrants were identified and pursued by ICE because they had, at some point, either received deportation orders or committed crimes. But most have long-since served their punishments for those crimes. Moayad Jalal Barash is one of them. He is 47 years old and has lived in the United States since 1979. As a teenager, he got in trouble with the law — drugs and weapons charges — and served time. And then, like so many who grow past the mistakes of their youth, he changed his life. He is now a dedicated church member, the sole breadwinner for his family.
He is what we mean when we say, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
Lawyers have filed a class action suit. They claim that these deportations violate the law, depriving these immigrants of their right to prove the severity of their plight. “Our immigration policy shouldn’t amount to a death sentence for anyone,” said one of them.
This advocacy is what we mean when we say, “Speak up for those who cannot speak, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“You vowed to protect us,” the sign of a protestor read outside the courthouse. It was held by a elderly man who was born in Iraq. His 37-year-old son, the father of two little girls, was detained by ICE and awaits the decision of the court. In fact, his life depends on it.
His prayer is what we echo when we say, “Kyrie eleison.”