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.
The Trump administration plans to stop accepting refugee applications from children with U.S.-based parents from three violence-riddled Central American countries — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — according to the summary of a presentation the State Department made recently to refugee organizations. The decision to end the Central American Minors program, which began in 2014 and is the only refugee program aimed at helping people from that region, could put hundreds of families split between two countries in a delicate situation. The children will no longer be able to come legally to the U.S. Of course, they can still attempt to cross without authorization and then either request asylum or try to navigate the border region without being detained or injured — just the kind of dangerous illegal immigration that the CAM program was meant to discourage. (And if the children do cross the border, as ProPublica recently reported, they could expose their parents to an investigation for child smuggling.)
“Ending the program would force desperate children into the arms of smugglers and traffickers because they don’t have a safe and orderly way to get to the U.S.,” said Lisa Frydman, a vice president of Kids In Need Of Defense, an immigration advocacy group. “This administration is giving the unconscionable message that Central American children are not welcome here for protection.”
Refugee organizations were alerted to the impending demise of CAM two weeks ago by State Department officials, according to a memo summarizing the meeting that was obtained by ProPublica.
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 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.
Smatterings of conversations in English, Arabic, Caldean and Dari punctuate the calls of Steller’s jays and Bewick’s wrens on a trail in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Six kids, ranging in age from seven to 16, hike up the Crest Trail with three young women from the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and Catholic Charities’ Refugee Mentoring Program. The childrens’ families have relocated to Albuquerque after being forced to leave their home countries, and the kids are here as part of the Refugee Wilderness Explorers Summer Camp. Rather than introducing themselves by their country of origin, the children name the languages they speak: Arabic, Caldean, Urdu and Dari are the predominant languages, and some of the kids also know Spanish or French in addition to English. Sixteen-year-old Ghulam-Ali speaks five languages, and he takes a takes a crack at reading the field guide entry for “banana yucca.” The pokey plant grows on rocky slopes, blooming in June and July.
Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a brief opposing the revised travel ban on travel from six Muslim majority countries earlier this week. Balderas previously supported a lawsuit by the state of Washington opposing the previous travel ban. That lawsuit succeeded and federal courts halted the program. Despite a Twitter declaration by President Donald Trump, the administration did not appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The recent brief supported a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the state of Hawaii.
It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who knows border issues better than Alan Bersin. His unique perspective combines years of frontline law enforcement experience with academic knowledge and intellectual interest in the historical, economic and social forces that are at work at the borders of the United States, especially the U.S.-Mexico line. Bersin became U.S. attorney in San Diego in 1993 and subsequently spent almost five years as President Clinton’s “border czar,” overseeing a border-wide crackdown on illegal immigration and drug smuggling. During the Obama administration, he served in several key posts in the Department of Homeland Security, including as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the force of 58,000 employees that includes the U.S. Border Patrol as well as CBP officers guarding air, land and sea ports of entry. He later served as assistant secretary for international affairs and chief diplomatic officer at DHS, a job he left last month.
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. — Beginning in mid-January, Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico will become the temporary home for about 400 refugee children from Central America. The Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are in charge of the program, a result of the recent increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States. Mike Espritu, director of the Chamber of Commerce in nearby Alamogordo, said local groups are getting ready to assist when the children arrive. “We’ve already had one meeting with some local leaders and it appears the community is willing to do what it can, to do what’s right for the children,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, it’s going to take care of those young people, no matter who they are.”
Algernon D’Ammassa is a writer, theatre artist, and founder of the Deming Zen Center. This week most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, perhaps with the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes, and since we live in New Mexico there might also be tamales, capirotada, perhaps cranberries laced with local pecans. Amid overeating and football, a few might even reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving for a moment. The story of the first Thanksgiving is the story of a vulnerable population welcomed to the home of another people. In a nation torn by political battles over immigration and refugees, particularly the Syrian refugee crisis, Thanksgiving is highly significant.
George R.R. Martin, the Santa Fe resident and author behind the massively popular book series that led to a hit HBO TV show, says that the United States should accept Syria refugees. In a post on his blog last week, Martin criticized those who oppose allowing Syrian refugees into the state, including Gov. Susana Martinez. President Barack Obama has announced that the United States would accept 10,000 refugees from the war-torn country. Critics say that ISIS, which is one of the factions involved in the civil war in Syria, would be able to place terrorists among the refugees. The rhetoric against allowing Syrian refugees into the country grew after the terror attacks in France earlier this month.