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Man Dies After Being Deported To Iraq From Michigan

Aug 8, 2019
Originally published on August 8, 2019 5:19 pm
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

I'm Ari Shapio with the story of a man who was recently deported from Michigan to Iraq. Friends and lawyers of Jimmy Aldaoud say he was sick and scared and that he has now died. Daoud didn't speak Arabic, and his family says he never lived in Iraq. Friends say he was mentally ill and that he had a series of run-ins with the law.

NPR's Jane Arraf joins us from Iraq to tell us more. Hi, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what happened. Why was this man deported?

ARRAF: So it's really because ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as part of a White House order, has been increasing deportations of non-Americans ever convicted of a felony. And Daoud fell into that category. But he'd never been to Iraq. He didn't speak Arabic. He'd been in the U.S. since he was about 6 months old. And like almost all those deported, he didn't have Iraqi ID.

But ICE put him on a plane to Najaf, the Shia holy city in the south of Iraq, even though he's Christian. And things went downhill from there. This is Daoud speaking from Baghdad about two weeks after he arrived. It's from a video - a video posted on Facebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

JIMMY ALDAOUD: I don't understand the language, anything. I've been 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. You know, I got nothing over here, as you can see. I was kicked in the back a couple days ago.

ARRAF: So there's a lot of street noise over that. But he's saying he's having trouble getting food, he doesn't have a place to sleep. He's obviously disoriented. And this week, Daoud was found dead.

SHAPIRO: Do we know anything about how he died?

ARRAF: Well, we spoke with his younger sister in the U.S., Mary Bolis, and she says he was afraid to go to the hospital. She persuaded him to go, and then she got a call the next morning on Monday, saying he died.

MARY BOLIS: To know that he died alone in a country he'd never been in - so that's like, you're going to take me and just throw me somewhere I've never been and bury my body there. That's what's hurting.

ARRAF: I spoke, though, with two of his friends who were also deported from the U.S. to Iraq, who said Daoud had talked of killing himself. This is Naser al-Shimary, who was with him in immigration detention in the U.S.

NASER AL-SHIMARY: He told me twice that - he was like, if I can't find a way - if I can't leave, then there is only one way out. I was like, but you have to be strong. He - I was like, you can't give in.

ARRAF: His sister says he had a history of mental illness, but she says he would never have killed himself. And according to Shimary, he was a person that someone had to take care of. He says Jimmy needed help. But, Ari, without Arabic and without Iraqi ID, he couldn't rent an apartment. He couldn't get a phone. He couldn't even go out without being afraid of being arrested. He was just terrified all the time.

SHAPIRO: Has ICE said anything about his case?

ARRAF: They've put out a statement pointing out that he had a series of felonies. And they say they deported him with a full complement of insulin. It's not clear exactly what that means. They did not explain why he was sent to Najaf with absolutely no means of support to support himself or even to stay safe.

But this is a pattern that we've been seeing. There are now at least half a dozen of these deportees in Baghdad, and they arrive with no IDs. Some of them have never lived in Iraq. Most of them don't speak the language. And it's not a place where you can get around if you don't have ID, if you don't know what's going on, if you don't have a tribe or a family to protect you. They're powerless. And in the case of Daoud, his health problems, mental and physical, made it even worse for him.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Jane Arraf reporting from Iraq.

Thank you, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.