Dozens of Chaldeans from metro Detroit were arrested Sunday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and face possible deportation, leaders in the Chaldean community said.
Martin Manna, an Iraqi-American Christian advocate who is president of the Chaldean Community Foundation based in Sterling Heights, said he's getting information from family members of those arrested, many of who live in Macomb and Oakland counties.
"Most of the arrests of the 40 or so were all done today," Manna said, adding people on a final order of removal were targeted, most of whom have a criminal record.
Sending them back to Iraq, he said, "is like a death sentence."
A spokesman for ICE declined to comment on any specifics.
"ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations during which additional resources and personnel are dedicated to apprehending removable aliens," spokesman Khaalid Walls said in a statement Sunday evening.
"The focus of these targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis."
ICE doesn't confirm operations before they are completed, Walls said.
There are Chaldeans living in metro Detroit with unclear immigration statuses who came to U.S. decades ago.
Some committed crimes when younger and have served time. Now, under President Donald Trump, the U.S. is cracking down and deporting them.
Chaldeans are worried they will be persecuted as Christians in Iraq if they are deported.
In 2003, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, and today there are fewer than 200,000, Manna said.
The arrests are in addition to 20-30 people picked up over the last month, he said.
News of the arrests has been trickling out in the legal and Chaldean communities.
Attorney Clarence Dass said he is representing two people in custody.
One of his clients has a drug charge from the 1990s and the other has a felonious assault conviction from the same time, he said.
Joseph Kassab, founder and president of the Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute in West Bloomfield said families are sobbing and crying for their loved ones.
"Because they are deporting them," he said. "And they don't know what their destiny is."