Lawmakers send letter to Trump citing 'total failure' of immigration policy

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, citing the administrations "total failure to act" on the immediate halt to deportations following the death of a mentally ill refugee from Michigan who was deported to Iraqi.

Congressman Andy Levin and 40 House Democrats signed the letter to Trump, imploring him to end detention and deportations of Iraqi nationals living in the country. The letter was sent following the death of Jimmy Al-Daoud, a homeless refugee who was found dead last week, two months after he was deported to Iraq.

Following the press conference, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-District 9, talks to The News about the bi-partisan bill he wrote with U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar.

Levin said lawmakers wrote the letter "to express our outrage and grief" over the death of Al-Daoud.

"All of these requests have gone unanswered beyond a cursory acknowledgment," the letter said. "Your administration’s total failure to act calls into question its stated interest in protecting religious minorities, especially Christians, from persecution, and underscores the horrific consequences of your immigration policies."

Al-Daoud, 41, who was mentally ill and diabetic, was born in a refugee camp in Greece in 1978 after his parents fled Iraq between wars. His family was granted refugee status in the U.S. in 1979, and the family traveled from Greece to Detroit when Al-Daoud was about a year old.


Last week, The Detroit News reported his death based on family accounts. His family and friends in the U.S. said Al-Daoud, who they say was bipolar and schizophrenic, had been living on the streets in Baghdad with two other men who had been deported the same day.

More: Body of deported Iraqi refugee to be returned to Michigan

The ACLU said he died from not being able to find medication, but ICE said that before his June 2 deportation "he was supplied with a full complement of medicine to ensure continuity of care." 

ICE defended his deportation, saying, "Al-Daoud’s immigration case underwent an exhaustive judicial review before the courts ultimately affirmed he had no legal basis to remain in the U.S."

ICE said his criminal history included assault with a dangerous weapon, failure to appear in court, malicious destruction of property, resisting and obstructing, and marijuana possession.

The Trump administration has said it was moving ahead with nationwide immigration enforcement, including targeting migrant families, despite opposition from Democrats. The Iraqi detainees targeted for removal were swept up by the federal government for deportation in June 2017.

The ACLU of Michigan has argued in federal court, where the 1,400 detainees' fates have played out for the past two years, against repatriation to Iraq because, it says, if the men are sent back, they face torture or death because of their Christian faith, for having served in the U.S. military or for seeking U.S. asylum.

Levin of Bloomfield Township and Republican Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland have wanted Congress to act on a bipartisan bill to pause Iraqi deportations since they introduced it in May. The bill would delay deportations for Iraqi nationals for two years until their cases have been heard in immigration court.

Moolenaar has appealed to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to raise the issue with Trump and request that he stop further deportations of Iraqi nationals by supporting the bill or issuing a Deferred Enforced Departure, a form of relief from removals, Levin said.

"It is incumbent upon us to act, in this moment of tragedy, to ensure that this never happens again," the letter concluded. "If your administration continues to deport Iraqi nationals, it knowingly and willingly risks more preventable deaths. As such, we implore you to end the detention and deportation of Iraqi nationals living in the United States without delay."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_