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Detroit man dies 2 months after deportation to Iraq

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AFP | This image released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shows a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officer guarding suspected illegal aliens on August 7, 2019.
3 min

A 41-year-old Iraqi-born man who had lived in the US since he was an infant but was deported in June for committing multiple crimes has died in Baghdad, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) officials said on Thursday.

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Ann Mullen, a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Michigan, said relatives of Jimmy Aldaoud told the organisation that he died this week. She said the ACLU doesn’t know what day he died or the exact cause, but that he had suffered from mental health issues and diabetes.

Human Rights Watch called Aldaoud's death a "shocking but not unpredictable result of cruel US immigration policies".

Aldaoud had never set foot in Iraq. Born in Greece to Iraqi refugee parents, he immigrated to the US with his family via a refugee resettlement program 40 years ago, when he was just 15 months old. His parents applied for refugee status in the US, which was then granted.

Aldaoud spoke no Arabic and had no known family in Iraq. "The manner in which they deported him [Aldaoud] was particularly cruel," his lawyer Edward Bajoka said. "He's diabetic, and they deported him with no insulin, no medication. They picked him up, and with no warning to him or his family, put him in a jail and a few weeks later he was on a plane."

Aldaoud, who lived in the Detroit area, was among hundreds of Iraqi nationals who were arrested to enforce deportation orders. They had been allowed to stay in the US for years because Iraq wouldn’t accept them.

The ACLU sued in 2017 to suspend the deportations and allow people to return to immigration court to make new arguments about their safety in Iraq. The organisation argued that their lives would be at risk if they were sent back to their native country.

“Jimmy’s death has devastated his family and us. We knew he would not survive if deported,” ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said in a statement. “What we don’t know is how many more people (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will send to their deaths.”

Aldaoud’s roughly 20 convictions over two decades include assault, domestic violence, home invasion and disorderly conduct, ICE officials said. They also said Aldaoud was given enough “medicine to ensure continuity of care” when he was deported.

He was released from custody in December after a federal court ordered the release of Iraqi nationals who were slated for removal. ICE officials said he cut his GPS tether on the day of release, as others have done, and he was then arrested by local police for larceny from a motor vehicle in April.

Detroit federal Judge Mark Goldsmith made a series of decisions in favor of the immigrants, and hundreds have benefited. But the appeals court said in December that Goldsmith exceeded his authority.

ACLU officials say they continue to represent the Iraqi nationals, many of whom appeared before immigration judges to present their cases.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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