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ICC Note: A great article detailing one Iraqi family’s struggle to escape the hell that Iraq has become for Christians and escape to the US.
Out of Iraq , a flight of Chaldeans

Todd Bensman

Iraq (for the full story, go to The San Antonio Express) The journey north from Guatemala through Mexico to the Texas border lasted 17 days.

Finally, on the evening of Feb. 26, 2006, the young family of four saw the river come into view.

Weary and beaten, with the baby starting to fuss, the family was driven in a car right up to the Rio Grande .

And there, it stopped in a cloud of dust.

George and his wife, Baida, were Iraqi refugees. They fled their homeland because Muslim extremists had made two things clear: They didn’t like the family’s Christian faith, for one. What was worse, to the gunmen prowling the neighborhood, were the sons’ names, George and Toni, which seemed to lionize President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The decision to hire a smuggler to get them to America was clinched after militants told George Sr., a milk delivery man, that he was next on the beheading list for being an “infidel Christian,” and after caregivers at their children’s nursery became untrustworthy.

“People started calling him George Bush … so we stopped sending him to school in fear of him getting kidnapped,”
Baida, a hair stylist, later would tell American authorities. “Same thing with my young baby, Toni; they called him Tony Blair.”

The journey from Iraq to the Texas border had been expensive and risky, especially moving inconspicuously with two young children through hostile, foreign terrain. But looking at the river, the family realized this was more than just a border. It was a river. They would have to swim across. None of them knew how.

They had done what hundreds of thousands of other Christian Iraqi families have since the American invasion: sold everything in the face of horrific and systematic religious persecution, and fled north to Damascus , Syria , or Amman , Jordan .

Out of options, the family joined an increasing number of such refugees who are proceeding toward America , bent on crossing the border illegally.

The war has set off a massive exodus that, ironically, has driven more Iraqis to America , making counter-terrorism officials all the more strained and anxious about who is crossing the border and what they intend.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show only about 100 Iraqis have been caught at the borders between 9-11 and the end of last year, more than 60 of them along the Southwest border and about 20 in Texas . But those relatively small numbers don’t account for the months of this year when refugee outflows from Iraq have jumped.

In April, five Iraqi families with children were in detention at the federal T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor after Border Patrol agents picked them up in Texas and California; a half-dozen were in custody in the San Diego, Calif., area; 11 Iraqis were caught at a Mexican airport; and Belize authorities were trying to figure out what to do with 10 U.S.-bound Iraqis abandoned by their smuggler.

Pain in Detroit

Much anguish can be found in Detroit ‘s churches, Chaldean-owned restaurants and domino parlors where men smoke shisha pipes on Sundays after Mass. The war has engulfed them with news of murdered loved ones and displaced families.

There are mixed emotions about who’s to blame for what has befallen the Chaldeans. In the era of Saddam Hussein, many Christians felt protected from Arab Muslims. Some were left alone and flourished in business, academia and the professions. Top Saddam adviser Tariq Aziz was a Chaldean Christian.

Since Saddam’s ouster, Arab militias have ravaged Christian communities.

Father Jacob Yasso, who has presided over the Sacred Heart Church and Chaldean Community Center on Detroit ‘s West 7-Mile Street for more than 30 years, said he believes America owes admission to Chaldeans trapped and suffering overseas.