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On deporting Christians to Iraq

Can Trump's evangelical friends avert the evil decree?

You will recall that Donald Trump’s first executive order banning travel to the U.S., issued back in January, provided a preferential option for Christian refugees from Iraq and the six other majority-Muslim countries it covered.

Not that the order mentioned Christians by name. Rather, it instructed the secretaries of state and homeland security to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

Get it?

The object, of course, was to honor Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promise to help Christian refugees, whom he falsely insisted had been disfavored under the Obama administration. It was part of the agenda that enabled him to win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in November.

Evangelical leaders did not all drink the Kool Aid. Some even thrust it aside.

But staunch Trumpistas like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, and Ronnie Floyd gave it their blessing — and 75 percent of white evangelicals supported what the president himself liked to call the “Muslim Ban.”

The second executive order — the “watered down” one (as Trump put it) issued in early March after adverse court decisions — did away with the preferential option, and took Iraq off the list, but with no apparent loss of evangelical support. A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

It now turns out that to get off the list, Iraq had to agree to take back any Iraqis that the American government chooses to deport. Whereupon, over a hundred Chaldean Christians in the Detroit area were rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and, if it hadn’t been for a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in Michigan last week, they would now be back in a country that has seen their communities all but destroyed, most horrifically by ISIS.

It should not be glossed over that the detainees are immigrants who have at one time or another fallen afoul of the law. But according to their ACLU lawyers and members of their community, most have paid their debts to our society. Even a minor criminal misdemeanor committed decades ago, however, entitles you to deportation in the Trump dispensation.

A group of evangelical leaders — including Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention — sent a letter to the secretary of homeland security urging that the Chaldeans not be sent back.

As for the Trumpistas, Franklin Graham has taken to Facebook to say that he finds the plight of the Chaldean Christians “very disturbing,” but so far not a peep out of Falwell or Floyd. God forbid they question the wisdom of their God-given Cyrus.

You might think that the President, obsessed as he is with reliving his astonishing electoral triumph, might realize (if nothing else) that he owes his 11,000-vote victory in Michigan to the 121,000-strong Chaldean community, which vigorously supported him because of his vows to defeat ISIS and rescue their brethren.

But nary a tweet from him on the subject — even as his Justice Department did its level best to argue that U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith had no authority to halt an immigration judge’s deportation order.

The lesson from this sorry state of affairs ought to be that sending people who have paid their debt to society into harm’s way is wrong, whatever their religious identity. But if Falwell, Floyd, and company talk to their friend in the White House solely on behalf of their co-religionists, so be it.

Let’s see how much clout they have…before the judge’s restraining order expires next week.