Sen. Runestad’s Speech to Michigan Senate on Deportations

Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, introduced a resolution on Wednesday opposing the mass deportation of Iraqi nationals living in Michigan and the United States.

Today, I rise to speak to my resolution opposing the mass deportation of Iraqi nationals residing in Michigan.

Last year, a group of Iraqi nationals were rounded up for deportation – a deportation to a country where religious minorities are the targets of a terrible genocide committed by the Islamic State.  Although having prior criminal records from their youth, these people are here legally with papers and many of them have lived here for decades. This deportation was stayed by US District Judge Mark Goldsmith. However, now the decision has been undone by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The majority of those who now face deportation this week are Chaldeans in southeastern Michigan. They have been living here legally for decades. Many of these individuals have lived in Michigan their entire lives, having been brought here by parents five decades ago from a worn-torn Iraq. They were placed in Detroit as children, decades ago and lured into a culture of crime. They were charged, convicted, sentenced and served their time. Then, they worked their way from the bottom up, to become business owners and start families of their own. America is the only country they have called home and they have more than paid back their debts in their service to their communities and their leadership in the business community.

With these crimes already paid for in years served, there is no cause to send these residents back to an ancestral home they can’t even remember. If they were to be returned to their country of birth, it should have been done decades ago, when they committed their crimes,  – not today. Moreover, many of these Iraqi nationals identify completely as Americans and are no longer able to speak the language of their childhood.

These Iraqis and Christians, facing possible deportation, will arrive in Iraq as foreigners to meet torture and death in a land that is not their home. Discernment must weigh the process and whether justice will be served by the consequences. Each of these cases should be reviewed and evaluated based on the life the individual has lived, the age they were when they were brought to the United States and whether sending them back as foreigners is a warranted death sentence.

Forcibly removing upstanding citizens from our communities and sending them back to a nation that will most certainly persecute them for their faith and for their identity as Americans, will fuel hatred and cement divisions in our communities.

In the Middle East, entire communities have been slaughtered for their religious beliefs and this violates all basic principles of humanity. We cannot be silent when genocide hangs in the balance for these individuals whom we have come to call our neighbors and our friends. I do not condone sending individuals living in this country back to their home country to face torture and death due to their religion, race, creed, ethnicity, gender or any other factor.

Read Senate Resolution 31