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Immigration Court Will Hear Iraqi Refugee’s Appeal

Kadhim Albumohammed prepares mentally to leave the church where he sought sanctuary for two years on Wednesday, June 24, 2019.

A refugee from Iraq who spent the last couple of years in sanctuary in an Albuquerque church to avoid deportation was leaving the rooms he’d been confined to on Wednesday, June 24. That’s because an immigration court will hear his appeal, and he’s on the path to securing his green card.

Two years and seven days ago exactly, Kadhim Albumohammed said, he sought sanctuary in this basement instead of being deported to Iraq, where he feared for his life. He spent years aiding the U.S. military during the Iraq War, and because of that, he may have faced persecution, torture or worse, if he had been sent back, he said.

This week also marks his 25th year in the United States—a milestone that makes him smile. "The United States, that is my home," he said. "I make a family here. I have kids. I have a wife. That’s my country, you know. That’s the reason I fight for this, because this is my country. I believe this is my country."

Albumohammed said, somehow, in this moment, he’s feeling scared about leaving the church. It was not easy to live only in these rooms, this small courtyard, wondering if there was any hope. But people who rallied around him here kept him going. "Nothing can make you happy more than freedom," he said.

His attorney said the appeal was successful at last because of shifting conditions in Iraq, where things have changed enough that Albumohammed would likely qualify for asylum once again.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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