Federal agents seek to deport Iraqi refugee who cut his tether

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 33-year-old Iraqi refugee from Michigan is being sought by federal agents after he cut his tether on the day he was set to be deported.

Department of Homeland Security investigators filed a complaint in federal court Friday against Ali Najim Al Sadoon, an Iraqi refugee who was granted asylum just shy of his eighth birthday in New York in 1994.

Ali Al Sadoon

"He's deeply rooted in this country," said Miriam Aukerman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. "English is his native language. He has tattoos, which makes him a target in Iraq."

In 2013, he was charged with a breaking-and-entering crime from which Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials charged him as removable from the United States. His removal orders were approved by a judge while he was serving time for the crime in 2015, according to the DHS complaint.

During that time, Al Sadoon became a plaintiff in Hamama v. Adducci, a nationwide class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Michigan in 2017. The ACLU lawsuit was filed after more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals nationwide — 114 from Michigan — were swept up in the raids during the summer of 2017.

Al Sadoon's motion to reopen his immigration case was denied in November 2017. Aukerman said he withdrew his appeal because he couldn't afford his attorney through the lengthy process.

He was held in the Michigan Department of Corrections while it was uncertain if Iraq would accept any detainees amid being removed from Trump's travel ban list of Muslim-majority countries.

Some Iraqi nationals, including Al Sadoon, were released in December after years in detention based on the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, who said ICE could not indefinitely detain foreign nationals while seeking to deport them.

The civil liberties organization argued that if the detainees were repatriated to Iraq, they would face torture or death for their Christian faith, having served in the U.S. military or seeking U.S. asylum.

Federal immigration agents resumed deporting Iraqi detainees in April after the full U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel. The three-judge Sixth Circuit panel in December ruled that Goldsmith lacked the authority to stop the deportations and grant bond hearings.

►More: Metro Detroit Iraqi detainees begin long-awaited trek home

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►More:Judge orders former Iraqi detainee returned to U.S.

Al Sadoon was placed on a GPS tether, and in March, Iraq issued travel documents for his return on June 24.

On the day of his removal, he cut his tether in Detroit near the area of Interstate 96 and West Chicago Street. Officers recovered the tether the following day and said Al Sadoon did not show up at Detroit Metro Airport for his scheduled deportation.

ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said he "is not the first to abscond."

Aukerman says the removing of the tether was an act by Al Sadoon to save his own life.

"When he doesn’t voluntarily agree to go somewhere because he couldn’t accept that fate, they prosecute him," Aukerman said. "This complete disregard for human life. This idea that people are disposable no matter how grave the harm. ICE is nevertheless going to take any means necessary regardless of the damage to see this family torn apart."

According to the complaint, Al Sadoon appeared as instructed at ICE offices on June 21 where he was given instructions regarding his removal.

His immigration attorney filed an emergency stay with the immigration court on Al Sadoon’s behalf. On June 21, court officials told the immigration attorney that according to ICE, the deportation was not scheduled until June 25, and the court had not yet made a decision. In fact, the deportation was scheduled for June 23, Aukerman said. 

"In other words, ICE was trying to deport Al Sadoon before the court could decide his motion," Aukerman said.

"American citizens who commit an offense, they get a second chance. If we or our children make a mistake, we take responsibility and try again. We deny immigrants that opportunity."


Twitter: @SarahRahal_