The Trump Administration is deporting a growing number of Iraqi nationals who say they face likely persecution and death if returned to that country.
These Iraqis are part of a court case, Hamama v. Adducci, that challenged their planned deportations. Many have criminal records and standing deportation orders. But they say Iraq is too dangerous to return to.
They won temporary victories but lost their case on appeal. Now, it appears the government is aggressively moving to deport them.
Attorney Shanta Driver represents 20 Iraqis from the case. Three now face deportation in the next week.
“It’s like a death sentence to be sent back there. And the U.S. government knows it,” said Driver.
Driver says one client is set to be deported on Saturday. “He has four children. Four American-born children. He’s lived here his whole life. There’s nothing for him in Iraq,” Driver said.
“But one thing is for sure. He’s not going to be able to survive in Iraq.”
Driver and others say Iraq is also only issuing returnees 24-hour visas, leaving them paperless and "stateless" in a country where not having proper identification papers can be lethal.
“Our clients, come hell or high water, cannot get on that plane. That is our bottom line,” Driver said.
Many of the Iraqis are Chaldean Christians. They say they face likely persecution, torture and death in Iraq.
Wisam Hamana is a fairly typical case. He’s Chaldean, came to the U.S. as a refugee at age three, and grew up in Detroit.
But Hamana has a criminal record, and a standing deportation order. He’s tried to fight it, but says a lawyer’s mistake set him up for deportation.
Hamana says he fears that like his cousin in 2012, he’ll be kidnapped and murdered in Iraq.
“Who knows what’ll happen there. I’m a Westerner, I’m not from there,” Hamana said. “I belong here, and I’ll do whatever it takes to stay here.”
Hamana spent 18 months in immigration detention after being picked up in raids across Metro Detroit in June of 2017. He was released by a judge’s order, but is now scheduled to be deported on Tuesday. He said his entire family, including his 10-year-old son, is in Michigan.
“I can’t go back to Iraq. I refuse, I will not go back,” Hamana said.
ICE would not confirm how many Iraqis from the Hamama case have been deported. But lawyers and activists say they know of about a dozen deportations so far, and fear the Trump Administration will only pick up the pace as it proceeds with a larger immigration crackdown.
Driver says activists plan to try everything, from looking for sanctuary in religious institutions to demanding airlines not fly involuntary deportees, as last-minute, last-resort interventions to try and stop the deportations.
"We're going to do everything we can to save our clients' lives," Driver said.