Estimated at 121,000-strong, Michigan’s Chaldean community is the largest in the world outside of Iraq, from where these Aramaic-speaking Mesopotamians claim their ancient roots. It’s a result of multiple waves of immigration, mostly starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when many came to the United States as refugees fleeing anti-Assyrian killings and the chaos of the Iran–Iraq War. Since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, sectarian violence, civil war, and the rise of ISIS have killed or displaced more than two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians.
The Chaldeans of Michigan have a conservative history, consistently supporting the Republican Party with votes and donations, and they voted heavily for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, helping him win Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence inspired many Chaldeans to show up at voting booths with unprecedented enthusiasm by promising to protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East. A Chaldean priest publicly blessed Trump while he was on the campaign trail, and conservative Christians praised Trump’s commitment to Christian minorities on Facebook. Few in the community expected that Trump’s immigration crackdown—touted in part as a means to protect the country from radical Islamists—would come to target them.
Tragic? Yes. Surprising? No.
Taking a statement (like, say, “oh, we’ll just deport Muslims”) as gospel just because it sounds good or the listener really wants it to be true seems so naive. Is it really such a radical idea to evaluate the veracity of something with more of a skeptical eye? Sigh….