Updated 2:24 p.m.
Jimmy Aldaoud, an Iraqi national who lived most of his life in the United States, died Tuesday from complications of diabetes after being deported to Iraq.
Aldaoud’s death comes after members of Congress from both parties have urged the Trump administration to halt its deportation campaign against the country’s Iraqi population. The administration has targeted around 1,400 Iraqis with deportation orders, according to a February report from NPR.
“Jimmy Aldaoud, a Chaldean resident of Oakland County, should have never been sent to Iraq,” U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said in a statement Wednesday.
“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. … His death could have and should have been prevented, as his deportation was essentially a death sentence.”
Levin and U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) introduced a bill in May aimed at stopping the deportations of Iraqis, many of whom in Michigan are part of the Christian Chaldean community that faces persecution in Iraq. Levin’s congressional district has the highest proportion of Iraqi-born people of any in the nation.
In a statement Thursday, Moolenaar said “This never should have happened, and no one should be sent to a country where they are going to be persecuted for their faith. Congressman Levin and I will be working to move our bill forward in the House, but we also believe the Administration could end this policy on its own and really help Michigan families and their loved ones.”*
Martin Manna of the Chaldean Community Foundation told Politico, “There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety in the community,” and that “Iraq’s not a safe place for many of the people who are being sent back.”
There are around 160,000 Chaldeans in Michigan.
In a video posted to Facebook, Aldaoud spoke about his impending deportation, describing his recent experience of homelessness and his protesting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that “I’ve never seen that country [Iraq], I’ve never been there. However, they forced me [to leave].”
*This story was updated with comment from Rep. John Moolenaar.