A group of 20 Christian Iraqis seeking asylum in the US after fleeing from ISIS have been held by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for over four months now, Al Jazeera reports.
The imprisoned Iraqis — known as Chaldeans — are being detained for an unusually long time with no explanation even though they have family members willing to sponsor them in San Diego County, according to Al Jazeera.
Mark Arabo, an activist for the Chaldean community in San Diego, told Al Jazeera that ICE claimed it didn’t have sufficient resources to process the Chaldeans’ claims. Arabo says that explanation is hard to believe.
“They have escaped living hell. Let’s allow them to reunite with their families,” Arabo told Al Jazeera.
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, has been persecuting and killing Christians in the region, forcing them to flee. Over 125,000 Christians fled Iraq since the rise of ISIS.
Last month, a group protested outside the Otay Detention Facility to call for the release of the 20 Chaldeans.
In a statement, ICE said, “Given ICE’s limited detention resources and the agency’s policy of holding those who are public safety threats or flight risks, the vast majority of foreign nationals arrested by ICE are, in fact, released under supervision while their cases are pending.”
The statement also said that a decision on whom to release was made after the review of the case.
“We are talking to the state department and the White House and Congress and we are putting pressure to make sure they release those 20 innocent people,” Arabo told Al Jazeera.
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