Families react to sudden deportations of dozens of immigrants in Detroit

ICE says deportees have past criminal convictions

DETROIT – Families impacted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweeps Sunday across Metro Detroit are continuing to protest.

Dozens gathered outside of a church in Southfield Monday to voice their concerns.

One of the protesters was Shantal Hanna, whose husband, Maher Hanna, was detained Sunday morning.

"It's hard. My life has been destroyed. It's not right what they're doing and we need answers," she said.

Hanna said her husband came to the United States legally when he was 2 years old. He was sponsored by an American family. When he was in his 20's, he was charged with marijuana and gun possession. He's now 40 years old.

"He did his time with the state and everything. He got charged for what he did and did the time then immigration court came and he did his time there too. They let him go and he hasn't been in trouble for 15 years," Hanna said.

Because of the crime he committed, his status changed in the United States to "deportable." He has checked in with his immigration officer every year, and had no problems for more than a decade until Sunday.

"They took him to another state. What about me? He's the sole provider. He owns this home. I need him here, not behind bars shackled up like some cattle," she said.

Maher Hanna's sister, Faye Farha, is also struggling with this because all of her brothers are in the same situation.

"Why did they take him now? We need answers and need to know what's going on with my brothers," Farha said.

She fears what could happen if they return to Iraq.

"ISIS will kill my brothers. They have tattoos with crosses on their bodies and they will kill my brothers there," Farha said.

Farha said her father died back in 2001 after his sons got in trouble with the law. She said he couldn't handle the stress of them returning to Iraq and died of a stroke.

The families have lawyers and their priests involved in this and one of the priests has contacted officials in Washington.

"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," ICE said in a Monday morning statement. "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.

"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."

READDozens of immigrants arrested, sent to Ohio detention center after sweep in Detroit

"I voted for Trump thinking he would protect ethnic minorities," Hanna said. "Now it's blowing up in my face."

In some cases, people were approached at their home.  Families recorded their loved ones being taken away in cuffs. Many are Chaldean and immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq.

"I've done so much crying, I can't even cry anymore," Hanna said.

"There's a reason why we fled our country," said Zeinab Al-Badry, whose husband was also detained. "It's not to have fun in America, but to be safe."

"If you go to Iraq and pass by ISIS, they are going to get killed," said Junior Seiba, whose cousin was detained.

Family members said their loved ones arrived in the country legally. Some are married to U.S. citizens and have American-born children.

Many of the people detained on Sunday have prior convictions -- in some cases misdemeanors -- dating back decades.

"We are trying to rebuild our lives," said one of the people whose family member was detained. "Why are you trying to punish people who made one mistake? Everyone makes mistakes."

After hours of waiting, the bus departed Sunday evening. Chaos and heartbreak ensued outside the ICE Enforcement and Removal Office.

The focus of the targeted enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis.

ICE will not confirm an operation prior to its completion, nor will ICE speculate on future operational activities.

Local 4 News spoke with some of the detainees' attorneys, who were unsure how long they will remain in custody, if their families will be able to see them again, or if they will be deported.


About the Authors:

Koco joined the Local 4 News team in September of 2016. She was born and raised in Metro Detroit, attended Central Michigan University, and previously worked at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.