ANALYSIS: The Deportation and Subsequent Death of Iraqi Christian Jimmy Aldaoud
Jimmy Aldaoud, an Iraqi Christian who had lived in the United States since he was an infant, died weeks after being deported from the United States. Aldaoud had been diagnosed with diabetes and died of complications of the disease. He was a member of the Chaldean Christian community and had lived in the Detroit, Michigan area for almost his entire life. He had shared an apartment in Iraq with another Iraqi Christian deportee, who reported Aldaoud’s death back to his family.
According to his immigration attorney, Edward Bajoka, Aldaoud was unable to get insulin in Iraq. He had never lived in or visited Iraq until his June 2, 2019 deportation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that he had entered the United States at 6 months old, having been born in Greece. His family came to the United States as refugees in 1979. "He was not able to get insulin in Iraq. That was essentially the cause of his death," Bajoka said.
Aldaoud’s attorney shared a video taken of him discussing his experience with ICE officers. In it, he discusses how desperate he was to avoid being deported to Iraq. He states:
"I begged them. I said, 'Please, I've never seen that country. I've never been there,' " Aldaoud says in the video. "They forced me. I'm here now, and I don't understand the language. I've been sleeping in the streets. I'm diabetic. I take insulin shots. I've been throwing up, throwing up, sleeping in the streets. I've got nothing to eat."
ICE cites Aldaoud’s criminal history as the reason why he was deported. ICE stated that Aldaoud had 20 criminal convictions, including assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic violence, breaking and entering, destruction of a building, home invasion, and possession of marijuana. Aldaoud’s attorney, however, believes that severe mental health issues were the direct reason behind Aldaoud’s extensive run-ins with the law. Aldaoud suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression, and anxiety.
What prompted the deportation of Iraqi Christians?
In June 2017, ICE began a massive sweep that targeted Iraqi nationals with deportation orders. In most cases, the individual had been ordered deported in the 1990s or 2000s, but had remained in the United States on an “order of supervision” because of the security concerns in Iraq. For Iraqi Christians, like Assyrians and Chaldeans, the U.S. government previously understood the sensitivity of the situation.
ICE’s stance began to change after Iraq’s negotiations to be stricken off of the second version of the Trump administration’s travel ban. On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order banning travel by citizens of seven countries. Iraq was listed in Trump’s original “Travel Ban.” However, Iraq was not included in the second version of the ban, issued on March 6, 2017, after discussions between President Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Today, hundreds of Iraqis have been deported from the United States. Hundreds more are currently in ICE custody nationwide. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lead efforts to circumvent ICE’s intentions. In November 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith in Michigan ordered the Trump administration to offer bond for all Iraqis detained by DHS longer than six months. However, the appeals court above Judge Goldsmith ruled for the government, thereby causing fear and panic in the Iraqi American community. There is no longer no legal authority in place preventing Iraqi deportations.
In May 2019, Michigan Congressmen Andy Levin (D) and John Moolenaar (R) introduced a bill to stop the deportations of Iraqi citizens that the Trump administration sought. This bipartisan effort would place a two-year delay on the deportation of most Iraqi foreign nationals.
Ibrahim Law Office has successfully defended Iraqis subject to orders of removal. If you or a loved one were in deportation court or are currently in deportation court, call Ibrahim Law Office, an immigration law firm, to discuss possible options today.