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Public Health New Mexico

Iraqi Chooses Sanctuary In The U.S. Over Deportation

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Sarah Trujillo via KUNM
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Attorney Rebecca Kitson and Justin Remer-Thamert with the NM Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice stand with Courtney Albumohammed, daughter of Kadhim Albumohammed.

An Iraqi man chose to seek refuge in a church in Albuquerque today rather than report for deportation.

Supporters rallied for Kadhim Albumohammed who was scheduled to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now, a local church is providing him sanctuary. His teenage daughter Courtney was stoked.

“I just think it’s amazing that all these people care and they’re here. These people that don’t even know him,” she said. “But he’s okay now, so I’m okay. When he’s okay, I’m okay.”

Her father worked for the U.S. military for five years and said he fears retaliation if he is sent back to Iraq. It was the second time people gathered to protest his deportation orders and his lawyer Rebecca Kitson said they’ve told ICE where he is.

“It’s because of you that we’ve had the strength to move forward and to resist against his unjust detention,” Kitson said.

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Credit Sarah Trujillo via KUNM
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Protestors marched around Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building.

Iraq struck a deal with the Trump Administration to be taken off the travel ban list in exchange for accepting more than 1400 Iraqis who are to be deported because they have criminal records in the U.S.

UPDATE from the Associated Press 7/14: In a statement, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said Albumohammed was convicted in San Diego, California, in 1996 of a assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in 1994.

Albumohammed also was convicted of domestic violence in Merced County, California, in 1997, which made him eligible for deportation under U.S. law, Rusnok said.

"(Albumohammed) has been on an order of supervision with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since about 2010," Rusnok said. "Since he did not appear for a scheduled July 13 ICE appointment, he is currently an ICE fugitive."

Kitson said there is no evidence that Albumohammed assaulted an officer and that case is one of mistaken identity. "Nowhere is that in his file in the lower courts. It is not mentioned," Kitson said. "I find it interesting that it is coming up now."

Albumohammed, who arrived as a refugee in 1994, worked as a linguist contractor with all four branches of the U.S. military from 2004 to 2009 in Fort Irwin, California. Albumohammed trained tens of thousands of soldiers in his five years and earned more than 15 medals for his service, Kitson said.

KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KUNM updated this post to reflect the correct spelling of the name Albumohammed in this Associated Press story.

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