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A Detroit man who lived in the U.S. for nearly his entire life was deported to Iraq, where he had never lived before. He died there because he couldn't get the insulin he needed to treat his diabetes.
Although Jimmy Aldaoud was an Iraqi national, the 41-year-old was born in Greece and came to the U.S. when he was less than a year old. He never spoke Arabic and belonged to a part of Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community, a minority group in Iraq that has been a target of extremists. But the Trump administration deported him back to Iraq in June, likely due to a prior criminal conviction.
“I’ve been throwing up, throwing up, sleeping in the street, trying to find something to eat. I’ve got nothing over here,” Aldaoud said in an undated video from Iraq, posted Wednesday by Edward Bajoka, a family friend and immigration attorney. Aldaoud, who suffered from diabetes and mental illness, said he was homeless and suffering in the country.
“Rest In Peace Jimmy,” Bajoka wrote on Facebook. “Your blood is on the hands of ICE and this administration.”
Greece does not recognize birthright citizenship, according to the Washington Post, which is why Aldaoud was considered Iraqi. ICE officials in Detroit said in an emailed statement that while Aldaoud entered the U.S. lawfully as a child in 1979, he violated his legal status with "no less than twenty convictions between 1998 – 2017."
The convictions included assault, domestic violence, malicious destruction of a building and property, marijuana possession, breaking and entering a vehicle, home invasion, and more. He was arrested again in April over on charges relating to stealing something out of a car.
"At his June 2, removal, he was supplied with a full complement of medicine to ensure continuity of care," ICE officials in Detroit said.
Iraq has long had a troubled health care system, but it’s unclear whether there’s an ongoing insulin shortage, potentially because of issues issues with distribution and power outages. (Insulin needs to be stored at cool temperatures, and often requires refrigeration.)
Aldaoud had been criminally convicted of disorderly conduct and once served jail time for a home invasion, according to Politico, which might’ve put him on ICE’s radar. But he’s hardly the only Detroit Chaldean to face deportation orders to Iraq.
Rani Yousuf, another Iraqi Chaldean and Detroiter, told the Guardian in June that he was also jailed for months and faced deportation over a years-old marijuana conviction that was dropped from his criminal record. In all, the Trump administration has targeted 1,400 Iraqi nationals — 114 of them from Michigan, where many Chaldeans live — for deportation.
Chaldeans are primarily conservative, and many stood for Trump in the 2016 election. The ACLU, which is representing Iraqi nationals and Chaldeans in a class-action lawsuit, has repeatedly argued that they deserve fair hearings and protection because they face violent persecution in Iraq as a Christian minority.
“We need more stories like this out there because we need to push immigration reform that’s common sense,” Bajoka told the Washington Post. “I think there are very few people in this country, despite his criminal conviction, who think that Jimmy should have been sent back to Iraq. But our laws and our system are broken, and it needs to change.”
Update 3:14 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comment from ICE.
Cover image: In a June 16, 2017 file photo, Amal Hana protests in Detroit. A family member was detained during Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids of primarily Chaldean immigrants and is facing deportation. (Tanya Moutzalias/The Ann Arbor News-MLive.com Detroit via AP)