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Iraqi Christians Caught Sneaking In To US Seek Asylum
Three men captured near Los Indios, claim Middle East mayhem
By SERGIO CHAPA
For the full story, go to The Brownsville Herald
May 2, 2006 — Three Iraqi men caught crossing the Rio Grande near Los Indios Saturday are asking for asylum, claiming they are members of the Middle Eastern nation’s persecuted Christian minority.

Yzaguirre said the three men range in age from 20 to 25 years and are asking for asylum based on claims that Iraq ’s Islamic insurgency has turned Muslims against the nation’s 2,000-year-old Christian community. Christianity first arrived in Iraq in 35 A.D., but Christians have suffered periods of persecution and tolerance in the centuries following the Arab Muslim conquest in 637 A.D., according to christiansofiraq.com.
Less than 1 million Christians remain in Iraq , but the three men claim that persecution of their faith has become worse at the hands of Muslim extremists reacting to the American invasion of Iraq .
The men were not available for interviews Monday. Yzaguirre recounted some of their stories about why they fled the Middle East . “They said Baghdad was a mess,” Yzaguirre reported. “They told me that they have seen some of the terrorists kill Christians within their sight.” Yzaguirre said one of the three men opened a liquor business with his father but that Muslim radicals burned down the store.
“Of course, for Muslims it’s against their religion to drink, but it’s not against Christianity to drink,” Yzaguirre said. “Within a month of being opened, the liquor store was burned down and they were told that they were going to be killed, so this young man left.”
Another man worked at an American military base in Baghdad where he did laundry for U.S. troops, the attorney said.
“They couldn’t afford to bring the whole family, so the plan was to send them over here one at a time … and the ones over here were going to work to bring the other ones back,” Yzaguirre said.
Yzaguirre said the three men came to the Texas-Mexico border where a smuggler helped them cross the Rio Grande near rural Los Indios. “The first words out of their mouth were, “Iraqi Christian, Iraqi Christian, Iraqi Christian,” Yzaguirre said of the men when they were spotted by Border Patrol.
The three are not expected to formally start the asylum process until after sentencing. A recent report, however, from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees shows that half of 500,000 Iraqi asylum seekers in Syria claim to be Christian despite making up less than 5 percent of Iraq ’s population.
“It hasn’t been that good since 2004, but even then they (the three men) were not taking political asylum when Saddam (Hussein) was there,” Yzaguirre said. “I think the big difference between when Saddam was there and now, is that at least Saddam had what seemed like more control over what’s going on.
“Whereas, there’s a lot of insurgencies now, there are a lot of terrorist cells, there are a lot of attacks and shootings and bombs. There’s a lot of lawlessness from what we see.”