SAN DIEGO - Members of San Diego's Iraqi Chaldean Christian community are demanding the release of 27 Iraqi Christian refugees being held in the Otay Detention Center.
The 27 men, women and children fled Iraq earlier this year after ISIS took over the territory where they used to live.
Members of the local Iraqi Christian community said the government knows full well that the people being held are not criminals.
They said it's shameful that they've now been held anywhere between four and six months.
Signs held by protesters in the detention center parking lot made their purpose for coming here clear.
"These are people that have escaped ISIS, escaped slavery and refused to convert, only to be imprisoned by ICE with no explanation," said local Iraqi Chaldean Christian leader Mark Arabo.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, is holding 27 Iraqi refugees -- men, women and children -- in the detention center.
An ICE spokeswoman told San Diego 6 their cases are all in progress. When we asked if four to six months detention to resolve cases was typical, she couldn't answer. She said there is no "typical" case.
She said ICE must do its due diligence before releasing people, including checking on the person's conviction record, immigration history, ties to the community, risk of flight, and whether he or she poses a potential threat to public safety.
"I'm here because I want to peacefully protest the predicament these people are in," said Sinan Salim.
Like others here, Salim said he finds it difficult to understand why people who fled a country that the U.S. invaded, that is now struggling with ISIS occupation, would hold those people for months behind bars.
But Salim expressed a hope that, "we can unite in prayer and also work with the law to exonerate these people or somehow through sponsors that are available allow them to come into the country just like my parents were able to come into the country," Salim said.
Aside from a general statement, the ICE spokeswoman did include a court complaint against one of the refugees being held at Otay.
It was filed on July 28th against a woman named Reta Marrogi.
Agents said Marrogi lied about whether she'd ever been granted asylum in another country.
According to the complaint, Marrogi subsequently admitted she had been given asylum in Germany, first living in the town of Kiel, eventually relocating to Munich where she worked as a dishwasher.
That was the only documentation provided us, just one person out of 27.
"Let's work together to keep America safe and do right by our forefathers by allowing real refugees to enter the country," said Arabo.
Arabo went on to say local Iraqi families are ready to house 20 of the 27 refugees being held.
If you'd like to help in the effort to save Christians and other religious minorities trying to get out of Iraq and Syria, you can go to www.endthegenocide.com