A stressful two-year chapter of Kadhim Albumohammed’s life is coming to a close.
Since July 2017, Albumohammed lived, along with his wife and daughter, in the basement of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Albuquerque. On Wednesday afternoon, he addressed a crowd of about two hundred supporters after he learned that he can finally leave and go home without the fear of being detained by federal agents.
“I love you guys,” Albumohammed told the crowd.
Two years ago he showed up for an appointment with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, fully expecting to be detained. But, because of demonstrations by supporters, ICE cancelled Albumohammed’s appointment. But at his next scheduled appointment, Albumohammed’s lawyer showed up with a letter stating that her client decided to seek sanctuary instead. Albumohammed immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq out of fear of retaliation after supporting the U.S. during the first Gulf War.
Hundreds of Iraqi refugees currently detained by the U.S. federal government could be released as early as next month. A federal judge ruled Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has until Feb. 2 to show “clear and convincing evidence” that Iraqi refugees being detained are a public safety or flight risk. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith wrote that while immigration proceedings are pending, “the aliens who were arrested have now languished in detention facilities — many for over six months — deprived of the intimacy of their families, the fellowship of their communities, and the economic opportunity to provide for themselves and their loved ones.”
The mass detentions go back to a travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration last year. While Iraq was one of the countries included in the ban, the U.S. government agreed to exclude Iraq from the ban in exchange for the Middle Eastern country allowing political and religious refugees back in the country when they are deported.
An Albuquerque resident and Iraqi refugee facing federal detention sought religious sanctuary instead of meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials this morning. Fearing detention, Kadhim Albumohammed, who has lawfully lived in the U.S. since 1994, did not show up to his scheduled meeting with ICE Thursday. Instead, his lawyer presented the federal agency with a letter stating Albumohammed’s intention to seek sanctuary at a local church. His attorney, Rebecca Kitson, said the church and the Albumohammed family requested privacy “in this very difficult and trying time,” but said ICE is fully aware of Albumohammed’s location. “He will be very transparent about his location and his choices,” Kitson told a crowd of a few hundred people outside an Albuquerque office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
An Iraqi refugee already on removal status with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is preparing for what might be his last check-in meeting with officials before being sent to a federal jail facility to await possible deportation. First admitted to the United States in 1994, Kadhim Albumohammed is facing federal detention because of two misdemeanor convictions he served time for more than 20 years ago. Albumohammed’s lawyer Rebecca Kitson said at a press conference on Tuesday that his client is mentally “processing the information” he received in a letter from ICE asking him to “report for removal.” But, after a federal judge in Michigan ruled last week that Iraqi refugees can stay in the United States until July 24, it’s unclear how long Albumohammed might be detained. Kitson told reporters that it seems the only reason ICE would detain Albumohammed is “purely punitive” as he has never been a flight risk and is not a danger to the community. Courtney Albumohammed, Kadhim’s daughter, told reporters it is unnecessary to detain her father.
At least two Iraqi refugees in New Mexico could be deported following a recent repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Iraq. But the American Civil Liberties Union is attempting to prevent that from happening. The New Mexico chapter recently weighed in after the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Michigan detained nearly 100 Iraqi nationals. A federal judge in Michigan earlier this month temporarily blocked deportation of Iraqi nationals, whom the ACLU has argued would face danger if deported back to their country of origin. Monday night that same judge extended the stay against deportation to all Iraqi-born people affected across the country, including at least two in New Mexico.