An Iraqi Catholic man whom the Trump administration deported in June after having lived in the United States since he was six months old has died reportedly because of an inability to obtain insulin to treat his diabetes.
The death of Jimmy Aldaoud was confirmed by the American Civil Liberties Union and sources close with the man's family, Politico reported Thursday.
Aldaoud was born in Greece and came to the U.S. at six months old. He is among the hundreds of Chaldean Catholics in the Detroit area that the Trump administration has been trying to deport as part of a reported deal with the Iraqi government.
As reported, the Trump administration is looking to deport as many as 1,400 Iraqi nationals, most of whom are Chaldean Catholic, a community that was among the many religious minorities targeted by the Islamic State in Iraq and has faced increased discrimination and persecution since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
"Jimmy was found dead today in Iraq. The likely cause of death was not being able to get his insulin," immigration attorney Edward Bajoka wrote in a Facebook post. "He is a diabetic. He was forcefully deported to Iraq a couple of months ago. He was born in Greece and had never been to Iraq. He knew no one there. He did not speak Arabic. He was a member of the Chaldean minority group."
Bajoka noted that Aldaoud was also a "paranoid schizophrenic."
"His mental health was the primary reason for his legal issues that led to his deportation," Bajoka said.
As President Donald Trump has said that immigration raids will focus on criminals, Mindy Belz of World Magazine noted that Aldaoud was arrested in 2012 for stealing power tools from a garage and for possession of marijuana.
"Aldaoud appears to have served his time but was rounded up in one of the Detroit raids & held in Ohio when @DHSgov filed a deportation case in late 2018," Belz, an author and religious freedom advocate, tweeted. "Not everything adds up about the case but if reported circumstances of his death are true, US officials should answer why a diabetic with mental health issues was deported to a war-torn country with a Level 4 'do not travel' warning."
A video of Aldaoud sitting on an Iraqi street complaining about his situation following his deportation has circulated on social media.
"I've been in the United States since six months old. Just two-and-a-half weeks ago, immigration agents pulled me over and said I'm going to Iraq. I [told them] I have never been there. I have been in this country my whole life," Aldaoud said.
"They refused to listen to me. ... They wouldn't let me call my family. They said, 'You are going to Iraq and your best bet is to cooperate with us. That way we are not going to chain you up, we will put you on a commercial flight.'"
Aldaoud said he begged the immigration agents, telling them that he had never been to Iraq.
"They forced me and I am here now," he said. "I don't understand the language or anything. I am sleeping in the street. I am diabetic. I take insulin shots. I am throwing up, trying to find something to eat. I got nothing over here. I was kicked in the back a couple of days ago."
In his Facebook post, Bajoka declared that Aldaoud's blood "is on the hands of ICE and this administration."
Democrat Michigan Congressman Andy Levin said in a statement that Aldaoud "should have never been sent to Iraq."
"For many reasons, it was clear that deporting Jimmy to a country where he had never been, had no identification, had no family, had no knowledge of geography or customs, did not speak the language and ultimately, had no access to medical care, would put his life in extreme danger," Aldaoud stated, according to Michigan Radio.
"Jimmy died tragically yesterday of a diabetic crisis. His death could have and should have been prevented, as his deportation was essentially a death sentence."
In a Facebook post, Levin stated that the U.S. has a duty to protect Iraqi nationals who could face persecution if they are returned to Iraq.
"Numerous Iraqi nationals, including many Chaldean Christians, will face persecution for their religion, their ethnicity or their ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will," Levin contended. "It is our duty to do everything we can to protect them."
On Twitter, Levin vowed to put his full effort into advancing the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act, which he introduced in May to provide a legislative solution to defer deportation of certain Iraqi nationals for a 24-month period. The bill has both Republican and Democrat cosponsors.
"I had the privilege of meeting Jimmy’s family earlier this year to hear firsthand their concerns for his safety, and about their efforts to ensure his care. Today, I grieve with them and recommit to preventing any further injustices," Levin explained in a Twitter thread.
"That begins with making sure that Jimmy can be afforded a proper Catholic burial. At the moment, Iraqi authorities will not release Jimmy’s body to a Catholic priest without extensive documentation from his family members in the U.S. This seems to be a cruel irony, indeed."
The Iraqi Christian Foundation, a nonprofit that provides aid and advocacy for persecuted Iraqi and Syrian Christians, commented on Aldaoud's death on Twitter.
"In Iraq, he was homeless and didn't know the language. He just died on the streets of Iraq. This is complicity in genocide," the organization argued in a tweet.
When reports of the Trump administration's plan to deport Iraqi nationals surfaced in 2017, evangelical leaders with the Evangelical Immigration Table voiced concern in a letter that was sent to then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
The leaders warned that deportation of certain Iraqi nationals could lead to persecution or even death.
"We would ask that the Administration exercise the discretion available under law to defer the deportation of Chaldeans who pose no threat to U.S. public safety to Iraq until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities," the letter read.
Among others, the letter was signed by Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Samuel Rodriguez.