At Least 6 Former Kurdish Refugees Face Deportation Amid What Activists Describe As A Sweep

Jun 9, 2017

At least six Nashville Kurds are facing deportation amid what immigration rights advocates are describing as a sweep by federal authorities.

The actions appear to have been initially aimed at deporting people with criminal records, but activists say they've widened to include contacts with other non-citizens.

The Kurds were taken into custody this week and held by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office before being transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office referred questions about the reasons behind the detentions to ICE. An ICE spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The initial group of detainees were already under a judge's order to report regularly to immigration officials. They had been under the threat of deportation after being charged with crimes such as assault, drug possession, theft and weapons possession.

Some of those cases are recent, but three detainees haven't faced criminal charges in Nashville in more than a decade.

Drost Kokoye, an advocate for Kurds living in Nashville, says the important point is they've served their time and paid their fines.

"They've moved on with their lives and created a life for themselves since. And now this is coming back in this way."

Activists say that, since the men's arrests, more Kurds have been contacted, and asked to get in touch with immigration authorities. It's not clear why.

The timing of the arrests may stem from a deal between the Iraqi government and the Trump administration. That country was left out of the president's most recent travel ban. In exchange, officials in Baghdad agreed to take back more deportees.

It's opened the possibility that Kurds who haven't faced the risk of deportation — because of concerns about their safety if they were returned to Iraq — could now be sent back.