Home Diocesan News Church locally tries to help Iraqi Chaldean Catholics
Church locally tries to help Iraqi Chaldean Catholics Print E-mail
Written by Pete Sheehan   
Friday, 30 June 2017 14:30

The Church locally is trying to aid 114 Iraqis – mostly Chaldean Catholics – who are being held in a local jail facility awaiting possible deportation, Church representatives report.
“We know that as many as 114 Iraqis from Detroit are being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center,” on the east side of Youngstown, stated Salvatorian Father David Bergner, diocesan vicar for social concerns. Youngstown diocesan Catholic Charities and representatives of St. Maron (Maronite) Catholic Parish are offering their assistance.

The detainees were arrested in early June in Detroit during an immigration roundup by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and transported to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, a private facility, to be held in anticipation of deportation to Iraq, local and national news sources reported. Chaldeans are a religious minority in Iraq who have long been the subject of violence and intimidation.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith has ordered a temporary stay on the deportations following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), citing fears of persecution by ISIS and others should the detainees, some of whom have lived in the United States for decades, be deported.

Nearly all the detainees have past criminal records and were issued deportation orders, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statements, but were allowed to remain in the United States because of the dangers they could face if sent to Iraq.

Advocates for the detainees argue that, in many cases, the criminal records are for actions committed years, even decades, ago and most detainees have been living in the United States peacefully.

Attorneys in Detroit are primarily responsible for arguing the detainees’ case while the federal court there determines the next step, said Joe Bishara, an attorney and a member of St. Maron.

Bishara said that he and other Youngstown area attorneys, including Naomi Hooky, immigration attorney for diocesan Catholic Charities, “are making ourselves available in any way we can” to assist the detainees.

In addition, Father Bergner said, diocesan Social Concerns and Catholic Charities prison ministry staff and volunteers “seek full access to the detainees” in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center and will offer whatever assistance they can.

The hope, Father Bergner said, is that the detainees can be returned to Detroit to be near their families while the court process is played out. Meanwhile, both Father Bergner and Bishara said there will be efforts to provide support including helping families of the detainees come to Youngstown to visit them.

“Members of St. Maron Parish will be taking up a collection” to help with transportation, lodging and other expenses for family members, Bishara said.

Both the Maronite Church and the Chaldean Church are Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in full communion with the pope.

“Maronite Catholics feel a special solidarity with the Chaldean Catholics and their plight,” Bishara added.


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