Chaldean Catholic bishop calls ICE raid, arrests 'painful' for community


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (CNS) — When U.S.
immigration agents rounded up and arrested Chaldean Christians in southeast
Michigan June 11, it was “a very strange and painful day for our community
in America,” said the head of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas
the Apostle, based in Southfield.

“With the many Chaldeans
that were awakened by Immigration Customs Enforcement agents and consequently
picked up for deportation, there is a lot of confusion and anger,” Bishop
Francis Y. Kalabat said in a statement posted on the eparchy’s website.

News reports said about 40
people were arrested near or at their homes and were put on buses June 12 to be
taken to a federal detention center in Youngstown, Ohio. The same day, a rally outside
the Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church in Southfield drew dozens of people,
many of whom said the federal government’s actions had left them sad and

In his statement, Bishop Kalabat
said the eparchy was contacting and working with “many agencies to try
to stop this bleeding,” including the U.S. State Department, members of
Congress, the Iraqi Embassy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and
“any agency that could file an injunction to keep anyone from being

In talking with various
agencies, the bishop said, Catholic officials are emphasizing that “the
church does not oppose justice. All hardened criminals that are a danger to society
should be picked up.” But, he continued, “many who were picked up are
not hardened criminals but for the last decades have been great citizens.”

In a statement, ICE officials
would not confirm the number taken into custody but said those arrested had
criminal convictions, including for murder, rape, assault, burglary, weapons
violations and drug trafficking.

WJBK-TV reported that an ICE spokesperson
said that “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 U.S. law and ordered them removed.”

The official also said the action was
the result of recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, which had agreed
“to take back Iraqi nationals convicted of crimes.”

A bill passed by the U.S. House
June 6 “to protect Christians,” Bishop Kalabat said, “goes
against this very thing.” He was referring to the bipartisan Iraq and
Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act that would provide
humanitarian assistance to Christian and other religious minorities suffering genocide
at the hands of Islamic State militants.

The bishop acknowledged it “will
take a lot of effort” to work on behalf of those who have been taken into
custody, “but acting in disrespectful ways in front of the federal
building (will) only bring harm and not good.”

“We understand the pain
that many members of our community are going through but emotional outbursts
will not bring change,” he said, and urged them to get official statements
from the eparchy about efforts being made on behalf of the detainees. He added:
“Let’s pray for God’s blessings to rain down on us.”

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Source: Catholic News