Jimmy Daoud, a 41-year-old diabetic who lived his entire life in Detroit, died this week alone in the streets of Baghdad – the latest casualty of the Trump administration’s merciless immigration crackdown.
In a cell phone video filmed earlier this summer, Daoud can be seen pleading for help after his June 2 deportation.
“I was deported two and a half weeks ago. I been in the United States since six months old, and just two and a half weeks ago immigration agents pulled me over. They said I’m going to Iraq.”
Daoud says he tried to reason with the agents, telling them he had lived in the US his entire life. He was born, according to an immigration lawyer close to the case, in a refugee camp in Greece, but inherited the Iraqi nationality from his father.
“They just wouldn’t listen to me, wouldn’t let me call my family – nothing. They just said you’re going to Iraq and your best bet is to cooperate with us. That way we’re not gonna chain you up. We’ll put you on a commercial flight.”
For anyone following this story…here is a video of Jimmy taken in Baghdad about two weeks after he was deported. Rest In Peace Jimmy…
Edward A Bajoka, a Detroit-based immigration lawyer who is a friend of Daoud’s family, told Asia Times that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had detained Daoud at or near the premises of a hospital where he had gone for treatment. He suffered from mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia, in addition to diabetes.
In the video, Daoud recounts the day he was rounded up: “I begged them. I said please, I’ve never seen that country, I’ve never been there. However, they forced me. I’m here now and I don’t understand the language. I’ve been sleeping in the street. I’m diabetic, I can’t get insulin shots. I’ve been throwing up, throwing up, sleeping in the street, trying to find something to eat. I got nothing over here.”
This week, Daoud was found dead.
Deported to Najaf
Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iraqi Christian population was decimated from about 1.5 million to 200,000 today. Daoud’s family, like most refugees, had next to no connections back in Iraq who could help him out.
They managed, with the help of the ACLU, to secure him transportation out of Najaf and to the capital Baghdad, but his housing arrangements appeared to quickly fall through.
Immigration lawyer Bajoka says Daoud’s death is a symptom of the immigration crackdown on Iraqis under Trump.
“In 2017, after the Trump administration took power and put in place the travel ban, if you look at the original travel ban list Iraq was on the original list [of banned countries],” Bajoka points out.
Then, Iraq was taken off the list. That was in part due to Iraqi capitulation to the Trump administration’s demand that it accept the forced deportation of Iraqi nationals.
“The Iraqi government had this immense pressure and began complying and issuing travel documents for people like Jimmy,” said Bajoka.
Daoud was first detained by ICE in June 2017 and held for a year and a half, until a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Bajoka, and other attorneys secured his release.
“I think he tried to get back to regular life, but it’s difficult to have a regular life when you have mental health issues,” said Bajoka.
“Then at some point, the government obtained a travel document for him; it was a one-way visa issued by the Iraqi government. ICE officers picked him up from the hospital, or right after he left the hospital, because he was sick, and said you’re coming with us. They took him and forcefully deported him all the way to Iraq.”
Daoud, a Chaldean Christian with a conspicuous cross tattoo on his forearm, was not only deported to Iraq – he was deported to the Shiite Muslim city of Najaf.
“That may be one of the most dangerous places for a Chaldean Christian to be. There’s no community to help him out; no other Christians for hundreds of miles. It’s a holy city for Shiite Muslims and it’s well known that Shiite militias control the city and are extremely hostile for people affiliated with the United States – people in Jimmy’s shoes. And this guy spoke no Arabic at all.
“He was doomed from the beginning.”
More to come
Some 1,400 Iraqis who have lived in the United States for decades are now at serious risk of deportations.
The mentally ill, like Daoud, are especially vulnerable to deportation.
“Jimmy [was] a paranoid schizophrenic. He [had] a lot of mental health issues. He had access to a pro bono lawyer who was doing an excellent job, but Jimmy because of his mental illness one day at random fired his lawyer. And in the immigration system there’s no protection for someone who’s mentally ill like there would be in the criminal justice system,” Bajoka said.
Bajoka currently represents 25 Iraqi nationals, mostly Chaldeans or other Christians, who now risk deportation after never having secured citizenship.
“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s important to acquire citizenship once you’ve gotten here, especially refugees fleeing persecution and who may not speak the language,” said Bajoka.
It is also a major cost. “If you have three kids and two parents, and all five want to get citizenship, you’re talking a cost of maybe $10,000 between attorney’s fees, filing fees, and when you’re a refugee family living in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, people can’t just pull $10,000 out of thin air,” he said.
The death of Daoud offers a window into an ongoing immigration crackdown, in which immigration enforcement agents appear to be carrying out dangerous deportation orders with zeal.
ICE did not immediately respond to an Asia Times request for comment.
“The system is not designed to even give an immigration judge discretion – to say, ‘I’ve heard Jimmy’s story, let’s give him a shot.’ The law is so rigid and it’s becoming more and more rigid by the day and the system is just broken,” Bajoka said.
The orders, he says, continue to be executed without any concern about the consequences.
In a statement, the ACLU of Michigan said that Daoud’s death was partly attributable to a lack of access to quality healthcare.
“We knew he would not survive if deported,” said Miriam Aukerman, the senior staff attorney of the ACLU in Michigan.
“What we don’t know is how many more people ICE will send to their deaths.”