US targets some Iraqis for deportation in wake of travel ban deal
US government dropped Iraq from a list of countries targeted by a revised version of Trump’s temporary travel ban.Updated: Jun 12, 2017 23:46 IST
A US government official said on Monday US immigration agents are conducting targeted operations to arrest Iraqi immigrants who had been ordered deported after committing serious crimes, the result of a deal struck after Iraq was dropped from a list of countries targeted by President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
“As a result of recent negotiations between the US and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal,” said Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Reuters.
While some reports of the arrests came out in recent days, it has not been reported that they were the result of negotiations between the two governments.
The Iraqi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christensen said the agency recently arrested a number of individuals, all of whom had criminal convictions for serious crimes. “Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under US law and ordered them removed,” Christensen said.
She declined to give more details about the operations because they were ongoing.
Attorneys, activists and family members interviewed by Reuters say ICE officials were arresting people in the Chaldean Catholic community in Detroit, Michigan and Kurdish Iraqis in Nashville, Tennessee over the weekend and last week.
They say they have reports of dozens of arrests so far, but Reuters could not independently confirm all of the cases.
The moves come after the US government dropped Iraq from a list of countries targeted by a revised version of President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban issued in March.
The first version of the ban, signed just days after Trump took office in January, had originally included Iraq along with Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The March order said Iraq was taken off the list because “the Iraqi government has expressly undertaken steps to enhance travel documentation, information sharing, and the return of Iraqi nationals subject to final orders of removal.”
There are approximately 1,400 Iraqi nationals with final orders of removal currently in the United States.
US officials previously considered Iraq a “recalcitrant” country because it refused to cooperate with ICE’s efforts to remove its nationals from the United States. As of May 2016, it was considered one of 23 countries in that category, along with China, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and others, according to congressional testimony by ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale in July 2016.
At least some of the people who were picked up came to the United States as children and got in trouble with the law, in some cases years ago, according to immigration attorneys and local activists. They had been given an effective reprieve from deportation after serving their sentences because Iraq would not take them back.
“Suddenly after years of living their lives and getting past that they’re being greeted by ICE at the door saying that they’re going to be deported to Iraq,” said Drost Kokoye, a Kurdish-American community organizer in Nashville, Tennessee home to the country’s largest Iraqi Kurdish population in the country.
First Published: Jun 12, 2017 20:26 IST