A longtime Michigan resident who had never been to Iraq but was deported there in June died this week after he couldn’t get insulin to treat his diabetes, supporters said Thursday.
Jimmy Aldaoud, 41, who was born in Greece and came to the United States as an infant, was deported to Iraq on June 2. He died in Baghdad on Tuesday, Edward Bajoka, an immigration attorney in Michigan and a family friend of Aldaoud’s, told NBC News.
“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,” Aldaoud’s congressman, Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement Wednesday.
Aldaoud’s parents were Iraqi refugees who decades ago fled to Greece, where Aldaoud was born. The family came to the United States about 40 years ago when Aldaoud was 6 months old, Aldaoud said in an undated Facebook video.
Aldaoud, who had struggled to hold a steady job because of various mental health issues, including schizophrenia, was arrested in 2012 for breaking into a house in Ferndale, Michigan, to steal power tools.
That put him on the radar of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Aldaoud had a long criminal record and was given “a full complement of medicine to ensure continuity of care” upon deportation, according to ICE officials in Detroit.
His “immigration case underwent an exhaustive judicial review before the courts ultimately affirmed he had no legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” and ICE statement said.
Neither Aldaoud nor his parents were American citizens. And, as Greece doesn’t confer birthright citizenship, Aldaoud was a citizen of Iraq because of his parents.
When ICE moved to deport him, Greece would not accept him and he was eventually sent to Iraq. Aldaoud didn’t speak Arabic, did not have any family in Iraq and is Chaldean Catholic, a Christian group that has been persecuted in Iraq in the past.
The video of a disheveled Aldaoud was posted on the Facebook page of a humanitarian activist in Iraq
“I was deported two and a half weeks ago,” he says in the video. “I begged them, I said, ‘Please I’ve never seen that country, I’ve never been there.’ However they forced me and I’m here now. And 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 streets, trying to find something to eat. I got nothing over here as you can see.”
Levin said in his statement that U.S. authorities should not have sent Aldaoud 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,” the congressman said.
Bajoka, the attorney, said there were a number of reasons Aldaoud and his parents never became U.S. citizens.
“This is a poor family,” he said. “The cost of a family of five getting citizenship, between attorneys’ fees and filing fees, we’re talking over $10,000, and for a refugee family with low income that’s a difficult to come up with.”
Aldaoud is part of a class-action lawsuit, pressed by the ACLU, to stop deportations to Iraq.
“Jimmy’s death has devastated his family and us,” Miriam Aukerman, a lawyer with ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “We knew he would not survive if deported. What we don’t know is how many more people ICE will send to their deaths.”
Levin said he is working with Aldaoud’s family and police in Iraq to have his body sent back to the United States for 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.,” Levin said. “This seems to be a cruel irony.”