Lone protester pleads to keep immigrants from going back to Iraq

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The relatives of Iraqi Catholic refugees housed in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Youngstown’s east side were supposed to rally Wednesday afternoon outside the prison — but only one person showed up.

Maron Yousif — a Chaldean Catholic Iraqi immigrant — has become the spokesman for the group.

He drove from Detroit to Youngstown on Wednesday for what was supposed to be a rally for fellow Chaldeans being detained in the private prison on Youngstown Hubbard Road. But Yousif was the only one who showed up and he was there for just 15 minutes.

He was expecting more people to show up.

“There was rumor going on around town that everyone was going to come. Maybe someone got a tip-off, saying that they won’t let anybody in. He wouldn’t even let me in,” Yousif said.

He thinks somebody may have stopped the protest from happening.

“I have reason to believe that they may have shut it down or told people to not come, and kind of block the protest,” he said.

Prison officials and police were ready for a rally.

At 1:30 p.m., pylons were stretched across the front entrance and vehicles were stopped before being let through. A Youngstown police cruiser was parked across the street and U.S. Marshals sat in pickup trucks.

When nothing happened by 3:00, most of them left and only the pylons and prison guard remained.

The detainees were arrested Sunday by immigration officials in Detroit, who say all of the immigrants have felony criminal convictions.

“They have faced their time and they shouldn’t be facing a death sentence after facing their time here,” Yousif said.

MORE: Refugee calls Iraqi deportation from Youngstown ‘matter of life, death’

He said if the detainees are returned to Iraq, they will be tortured and, possibly, beheaded.

Yousif talked with his cousin — who is among the men being held at the Youngstown prison — on Tuesday.

“He said to me, ‘Maron, don’t let them kill me.'”

Yousif understands that it’s very possible all of the Iraqi immigrants in the Youngstown prison will be deported. He hopes they will be sent to a country other than one in the Middle East, where he said they face a most certain death.