Franklin Graham says he finds it "very disturbing" that immigration authorities have arrested many Iraqi Christians for possible deportation and urged President Donald Trump to give "great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq."
In a Facebook post, Graham, the head of Samaritan's Purse, criticized U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for rounding up 100 Iraqi nationals in Michigan last week for possible deportation.
Many of those arrested are Christians and Shiite Muslims who face persecution from ISIS, as reported by GH.
"I find it very disturbing what I have read about Chaldean Christians being rounded up by U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for possible deportation," he wrote. "I would encourage the president to have someone investigate these cases thoroughly. I understand a policy of deporting people who are here illegally and have broken the law. I don't know all of the details, but I would encourage our president to give great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq."
Graham is not the only Christian leader to condemn the arrests; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted: "This is wrong, wrong, wrong. A death sentence for those we should be protecting."
The Washington Post notes that the arrests came after a deal the United States made with Iraq, which sought to be removed from Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and agreed to accept deported Iraqis.
Immigration authorities said all of the Iraqi nationals who were arrested had criminal convictions; however, Mark Arabo, president of The Minority Humanitarian Foundation, told GH that many of those arrested have lived in America for decades and have been exonerated of previous crimes.
"These aren't criminals," he said. "They're good, upstanding citizens who have since been rehabilitated. The government should do what they want to do with them here in America, give them due process. But sending them back to Iraq is a death sentence."
Arabo noted that last year, his foundation was able to convince then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that ISIS was committing genocide against Christians and other ancient minority groups in the Middle East.
"I do not understand how anyone could send a Christian to a genocide zone," he said. "Donald Trump has promised to combat ISIS, but what he's doing is emboldening them by sending them Christians to kill. He's giving ISIS exactly what they want."
Arabo added, "It's surprising because the Chaldean Christians in Michigan did support President Trump mainly because they wanted to keep Americans safe. Sadly, it's the ones that supported him that ended up being detained."
Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, based in Sterling Heights, Michigan, expressed frustration that many evangelicals have voiced outrage over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, but have remained silent about the Chaldeans who face deportation, according to Crux.
"They could be doing a lot more," he said. "They could be saying, 'Wait, we have been fighting to protect these people in their ancestral lands and now we are sending them back to those areas that we're not doing enough to protect?'"
Meanwhile, the ACLU on Thursday filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt possible deportations.
"We are hoping that the courts will recognize the extreme danger that deportation to Iraq would pose for these individuals," Kary Moss, executive director for the ACLU of Michigan, wrote in a statement. "Our immigration policy shouldn't amount to a death sentence for anyone."