Michigan members of Congress announced a bill Friday that would grant Iraqi nationals with orders of removal two years of relief from detainment and deportation while they await individual hearings.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township and Republican Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland are spearheading the bipartisan effort and plan to introduce the bill Tuesday.
The two previously sent a letter signed by more than 20 other lawmakers from across the country calling on the Department of Homeland Security and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt the deportation of Iraqi nationals, including Christians at risk of religious persecution.
"We're asking for fairness and this is about humanity,” Levin said Friday evening at the Shenandoah Country Club just before the annual Chaldean Awards Dinner. “Iraqi nationals with orders for removal must have the time it takes to have their cases heard individually in immigration court.
"Numerous Iraqi nationals, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution for their religion, their ethnicity or their ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will," he said. "It is our duty to do everything we can to protect them."
Levin said their plan involves working with the executive branch to protect the Iraqi nationals from deportation without due process.
The bill would apply to Iraqi nationals with orders of removal and who resided in the United States on or before Jan. 1, 2014. It would exclude those who pose a threat to national security, are returning voluntarily or are subject to extradition, Levin said.
"This gives people time to seek reopening their immigration cases and proceedings," he said. "All we're asking is for due process and it's time to make this a national discussion."
"It's time for people to have their day in court and for them to realize what type of danger we would be putting people in by sending them back to Iraq," Moolenaar said. "All of us value religious liberty and in many countries that isn't the case ... It's something that all of us, created in the image of God, treasure and advocate for."
Other members of Congress who support the proposal include Democratic Reps. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, Elissa Slotkin of Holly, Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills and Debbie Dingell of Dearborn. The lawmakers stood beside Iraqi families in calling on federal authorities to prioritize the safety of Iraqi nationals who face deportation following a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.