U.S. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) on Friday announced that they will introduce a bill on Tuesday halting the detainment and deportation of Iraqi nationals who have orders for removal.
They unveiled the legislation at a press conference attended by U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) prior to the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner held at Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield.
“This is about fairness and this is about humanity,” Levin said. “Iraqi nationals with orders for removal must have the time it takes to have their cases heard individually in immigration court. 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. It is our duty to do everything we can to protect them.”
In April, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the roughly 1,400 Iraqi nationals with standing removal orders are no longer protected from deportation if an immigration court hasn’t heard their case.
Levin 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.
“Chaldean Christians living in Michigan came here years ago to escape persecution similar to what we see happening now to Christians around the world,” Moolenaar said. “The homes and towns that many left behind in Iraq have been destroyed, and they have no family to return to. If they were to return, they would face persecution because of their faith. The bipartisan legislation we are introducing will ensure due process and the rule of law for Chaldean Christians in Michigan and across the country.”
The legislators said the bipartisan bill will grant relief from deportation for two years and provide clarity in the process.
The bill defers removal for 24 months for Iraqi nationals who have been ordered removed at any time prior to the bill’s enactment and who resided in the United States on or before Jan. 1, 2014. The legislation excludes those who pose a threat to national security, are returning voluntarily, or are subject to extradition.
Authorization and documentation for the purposes of employment would be valid for the 24-month deferral to those who apply through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS would also be required to provide notice of these changes within two months of their enactment, and DHS would be prevented from detaining any individual who receives deferral for the 24-month period.
Last month, Levin and Moolenaar penned a letter signed by more than 20 Capitol Hill lawmakers to DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requesting the deferral of wholesale detention and deportation of affected Iraqi nationals, which would allow for time to have each case heard individually in immigration court.
Following the announcement that the heads of both DHS and ICE were departing, Slotkin and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence requesting intervention based on his history of advocating for persecuted Christians abroad.