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.
Glen Thamert wears a perpetual smile and favors a hug over a handshake. The retired Lutheran minister has lived in Jemez Springs since 2001 and raised both his adult children in Albuquerque. Next month will mark 29 years since Thamert was acquitted in an Albuquerque federal courtroom after helping two women, whose lives were in danger, leave their home country of El Salvador. Thamert’s trial was part of the sanctuary movement that sprung up in the 1980s when military forces killed hundreds of thousands of people in Central and South America. Community leaders and others often use the word “altruistic” to describe him.
Last week Albuquerque resident and Iraqi refugee Kadhim Albumohammed, through his lawyer, announced he would seek religious sanctuary instead of submitting to federal detention by immigration officials. In a letter delivered by his lawyer, Albumohammed informed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of his location but opted against publicly announcing where he is living. The idea of seeking refuge in a religious facility to avoid detention from immigration officials actually comes from ICE itself. In 2011, then-ICE director John Morton issued a memo to the agency’s field officers, agents and legal counsel, providing guidance on “sensitive locations,” or areas where agents should not make arrests except under extraordinary circumstances. It’s unclear to what extent ICE is monitoring Albumohammed’s location, but in a statement last week, the agency made it clear they are taking Albumohammed’s case seriously.
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.