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Iraqi Christians Won't Be Deported
by ("Chicago Tribune," September 24, 2000)
Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2000 04:47 pm CST

MEXICO CITY--The Mexican government said Friday that it would not deport 136 Iraqi Christians holed up in a Tijuana hotel, fearing death in their homeland for their beliefs and awaiting word on their bid for asylum in the United States as religious refugees.

The members of the Chaldean Christian sect have been in the hotel since midweek, detained by Mexican immigration officials after entering the country illegally in hopes of crossing into the United States.

"Mexico will not make them return to their country of origin, since there are sufficient elements to suppose that they are persecuted for their religion in Iraq," Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement released late Friday.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqis pressed handwritten signs against the hotel window pleading not to be deported. They have refused to leave the hotel for fear of being shipped back to Iraq.

Mexican authorities said Thursday that the Iraqis number 126, but Friday they raised it to 136.

After journeying to Tijuana on Friday and meeting with local officials, international human-rights authorities, the U.S. consul general and the group of Iraqis, Deputy Minister for Immigrant Services Jose Angel Pescador Osuna said he expected the United States to decide soon on the Iraqis' petition for asylum.

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