Bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to protect Iraqi nationals facing deportation | Michigan Radio
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Bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to protect Iraqi nationals facing deportation

May 8, 2019

Credit U.S. Congress / congress.gov

A bipartisan group of members of Congress want Iraqi nationals facing deportation from the United States to get their day in court.

On Tuesday, U.S. Representatives Andy Levin (D-MI-09) and John Moolenar (R-MI-04) introduced a bill, H.R. 2537, they say would protect more than one thousand Iraqis facing orders of removal. 

According to the bill, many of the removal orders are years old, and conditions in Iraq have changed.  

The bill would give Iraqi nationals, who have lived in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2014 and who have a deportation order to Iraq, a two-year extension to have their cases heard in immigration court, without threat of detention or deportation.

The extension would not apply to anyone posing a national security threat.

"Just let them make their case," said Levin. "It's the most American of values: due process."

Levin said, if they are forced back to Iraq,  many Iraqi nationals  in the U.S., including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution, torture or death because of their ethnicity, religion, or ties to the U.S.

"How badly would we feel if people were sent back into harm's way when they shouldn't even be sent out of the country at all," said Levin. 

The bill is co-sponsored by 20 members of Congress, eleven of whom are from Michigan.

According to Levin, Michigan's 9th District, which he represents, has the largest Iraqi-born community of any congressional district in the country.

The bill comes on the heels of a decision at the beginning of April by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that Iraqis with standing removal orders are not protected from deportation if an immigration judge has not heard their case. 

Shortly after the Sixth Circuit decision, Levin and Moolenar wrote to Vice President Mike Pence and to then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and then-Acting Director Ronald Vitiello of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They called on all three to defer mass detention or deportation of the estimated 1,000 Iraqi nationals, until their individual cases can be heard by immigration judges.