After being deported to Iraq in June, Jimmy Aldaoud, 41 of Detroit, has been found dead in Baghdad, Politico reports. The cause of death, according to immigration attorney and friend of the Adaoud family, Edward Bajoka, appears to be a lack of access to insulin.
Aldaoud’s story is a complicated one: his parents were of Iraqi descent, but he was born in Greece and had been in the US since he was a year old. Although he was considered an Iraqi citizen because Greece does not have birthright citizenship, he had never set foot in Iraq and he did not speak the language.
The Trump administration has sought the deportations of more than 1,000 Iraqis, including members of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Michigan, many of whom have lived in the US for decades.
Jimmy Aldaoud was part of the Chaldean Catholic community in Detroit. The Chaldeans are an ancient sect of Christianity which originates in Mesopotamia and are at risk of discrimination and torture by ISIS in modern-day Iraq, according to the Washington Post. Militants committed genocide against Christians in Iraq, wiping out the population which did not flee from the country.
In the administration’s move towards deportations, Aldaoud was particularly vulnerable, having diabetes and being a paranoid schizophrenic. His mental illness had led him to homelessness and legal problems, including a 2012 conviction of home invasion. He served 17 months for breaking into a garage and stealing power tools. His convictions made him eligible for deportation and, in June, ICE arrested him and sent him to Iraq. He died on Tuesday; his family says a neighbor found him.
Aldaoud described his life in Iraq in a video posted to Facebook Wednesday night, saying, “I don’t understand the language. I’m sleeping in the street. I’m diabetic. I take insulin shots. I’ve been throwing up, throwing up, sleeping in the street, trying to find something to eat. I’ve got nothing over here.” .
According to Reuters, Iraq agreed to take deportees in 2017, as part of a deal to be removed from President Trump’s travel ban. Aldaoud was sent to a Shiite region, an area that is particularly dangerous for a Chaldean and which has no Christian population to watch over him, Bajoka told the Washington Post.
According to Martin Manna from the Chaldean Community Foundation, many in the Chaldean community in Michigan supported President Trump and now feel betrayed. He told Politico, “There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety in the community. Iraq’s not a safe place for many of the people who are being sent back.” Manna’s group has asked President Trump to grant humanitarian relief to people like Aldaoud and allow them to live and work legally in the US by deferring the enforced deportations but, while the Trump administration has extended the status of some immigrants, they are moving away from enrollment in those relief programs.
Bajoka pointed out to the Post that many of the 1,400 Iraqis who are under threat of deportation have minor convictions. He cited one example of a woman who was convicted of selling cigarettes without a license. The immigration attorney, who is representing 25 other Iraqis fighting deportation, hopes that Jimmy’s story shines a light on the need for immigration reform.
Politico reports that bipartisan legislation to grant two years of relief to Iraqis facing final orders of removal was introduced by Representatives Andy Levin [D-MI] and John Moolenaar [R-MI] in May but passage could be challenging in the current partisan atmosphere in spite of gaining 30 cosponsors.