Dozens of House Democrats are urging President Donald Trump to stop detaining and deporting Iraqi nationals after the death of a Michigan man sent to the Arab country.
In a letter dated Tuesday, the lawmakers say Trump is risking causing more “preventable deaths” if he continues the deportations. Many of the people targeted for removal are Iraqi Christians living in the United States who have not been to Iraq in many years. Christians face discrimination and persecution in the Muslim-majority country.
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The Trump administration’s failure to stop the deportations “calls into question its stated interest in protecting religious minorities, especially Christians, from persecution, and underscores the horrific consequences of your immigration policies,” the letter states.
The 41 lawmakers, led by Democratic Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, note that the administration has repeatedly been asked to end the deportations but refused. Although many of the people affected are fighting their deportation in court, some already have been removed.
One, Jimmy Aldaoud, was deported in June to Iraq, where he died last week.
The 41-year-old’s criminal record made him a target for deportation. But he spoke no Arabic, had lived in the U.S. since he was a toddler and was Christian. He suffered from mental illness and diabetes. He is believed to have died because he couldn’t get the insulin he needed in Iraq.
The signatories of the letter said they felt “outrage and grief” over Aldaoud’s death.
“To force a man living with chronic illnesses into an unknown country without adequate access to life-sustaining medicine is nothing short of a death sentence,” the letter states.
Many of the Iraqi nationals targeted for deportation are members of the Chaldean Christian community who, for any number of reasons, never obtained U.S. citizenship. However, many of the citizens in their community voted for Trump because of his promises to protect Christians abroad and be tough on Islamist extremists.
The potential deportees have in some cases faced the possibility of being removed from the U.S. But Iraq long resisted accepting the deportees, while previous presidents hesitated to send them because of the risks they would face.
Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration led his administration to push the Iraqi government to accept the deportees, among them Aldaoud.
“National attention is now focused on Jimmy’s heartbreaking story,” the lawmakers say in the letter. “It is incumbent upon us to act, in this moment of tragedy, to ensure that this never happens again.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.