In the midst of a back and fourth between the Government and lawyers for hundreds of detainees waiting for deportation in Michigan, it looks like an expertise provided by Dr Walid Phares to an Immigration Court in Detroit was able to help resolve the case of one of the detainees, Najah Konja. The latter, a Baghdad born Chaldean was brought by his family to the US decades ago, While all of the family members became American citizens, Najah broke the law while a teenager. He has never been to Iraq since his relocation to America at age 5 and doesn’t speak Arabic.
Like many other Chaldeans and Iraqis from various religious backgrounds, Konja had no connection to his mother country, he had Americanized. But unfortunately he had committed felonies and by law he was at the discretion of authorities to decide of his fate. He served his sentence in jail fully, reemerged as a dedicated citizen, helped law enforcement and communities in various capacities and launched his own business. His redemption was complete according to civil society and police witnesses. He was caught in bad luck circumstances. For the Administration had ordered in June a full round up of all illegal immigrants who were on US soil, and who have committed crimes or felonies.
Konja fit the legal term, as his permanent residency was withdrawn. But he entered the US legally and continues to report to authorities. “He is in limbo between two categories” argues Walid Phares who served as expert witness with US courts on country conditions for over a quarter of a century. “However my testimony to court is not about the legality or not of this individual, nor about the executive order to deport or not. My contribution to court is simply to provide an assessment of country conditions. To opine if this individual whose brother is an activist in exile, would be harmed or not if deported to Iraq at this point in time.” Phares testified to court in Detroit for two hours and his contribution apparently helped court decide to stop the deportation of Konja and release him. “He did a great and balanced job” said Martin Manna the president of the Chaldean Community Foundation who was present. John Hajjar, a lawyer and the co-chair of the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy said “Dr Phares produced material for jurisprudence for a limited number of cases. He didn’t address the executive order for deportation of illegal aliens, but he demonstrated that in some cases these individuals would encounter hardship and possibly torture or more. Hence the court was able to distinguish who among the detainees could be susceptible of immediate persecution. The testimony of the expert was a main base for the court to avoid entering the fray of addressing the Administration’s policy while determining if the detainee deserves protection from immediate deportation, based on the current circumstances.
Phares’ expertise can be described as a practical foundation for a case by case review of country conditions and will be helping courts establish a jurisprudence as vetting the most difficult cases.
By Jawad Sayegh