DETROIT (WWJ) – Dozens of Chaldeans and other Iraqis were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Sunday during sweeps which took place in Sterling Heights, West Bloomfield, and in Dearborn.

Nearly 40 people were taken into custody Sunday morning were awaiting deportation and reports indicate most had criminal records — some with crimes committed years ago.

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An attorney for some of those arrested say that those being deported to Iraq fear for their lives.

Immigration attorney Eman Jajonie-Daman is representing about 25 of those arrested.

“There was a very wide ICE sweep of Iraqi Chaldeans and Christians living in the Metro area — and it started very early this morning about 7 a.m.,” said Jajonie-Daman. “They took them all in to the ICE office in downtown Detroit and put them on buses to get them ready to go to Youngstown, Ohio to the Northeast Correctional Facility there for final deportation back to Iraq.”

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation in Sterling Heights, says it’s “inhumane” to send Christians back to a country in which they’re going to be persecuted.

“The irony of this is that Congress just last week passed a resolution to declare genocide has been committed against Christians and other minorities in Iraq, and so here we are as a government sending them back to a country that has been persecuting this population,” says Manna.

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Sunday’s raids follow a week where hundreds were rounded up in Texas, Tennessee and California – including several Kurdish refugees.

ICE released a statement regarding the arrests:

“As a result of recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal. As part of ICE’s efforts to process the backlog of these individuals, the agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses.”

Some of the families of those arrested Sunday protesting outside the Federal Building in Detroit.

WWJ Newsradio 950 has a call out to ICE for comment.

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