The Slatest

U.S. Deported a Detroit Man to Iraq, Where He’d Never Been and Didn’t Speak the Language. He Died on the Streets.

In June, the U.S. government deported 41-year-old Jimmy Aldaoud to Iraq. Aldaoud, who was born in Greece, said he had lived in the U.S. since he was 6 months old and had never even been to Iraq, the country where he was technically a national. Aldaoud was residing in a small Detroit metro area community of Chaldean Catholics, a branch of the Roman Catholic Church whose roots are in present-day Iraq, when immigration officials showed up, detained him, and ultimately put him on a plane to Baghdad. Aldaoud did not speak Arabic. He did not have a home or any contacts there. Aldaoud was also a diabetic, and on Tuesday, he died in a country that was not his own from what appeared to be a lack of access to insulin, according to family friends and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a heartbreaking video taken on what appears to be the streets of Baghdad weeks after being deported there, Aldaoud describes how he was pulled over by immigration officials and put on a plane. “They wouldn’t listen to me,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me call my family. Nothing. They just said: You’re going to Iraq and your best bet is to cooperate with us. That way we’re not going to chain you up; we’ll put you on a commercial flight. I begged them. I said, ‘Please, I’ve never seen that country. I’ve never been there.’ However, they forced me. I’m here now.”

Immigration attorney Edward Bajoka, who described himself as a close family friend of the Aldaouds, said Aldaoud suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and his mental illness led to encounters with the law in Michigan, including disorderly conduct and home invasion charges, which prompted his deportation to Iraq. “I don’t understand the language. I’ve been sleeping in the street,” Aldaoud said in the video of his new life in Iraq. “I’m diabetic. I can’t get insulin shots. I’ve been throwing up, sleeping in the streets, trying to find something to eat. I’ve got nothing over here.”

“Jimmy Aldaoud, a Chaldean resident of Oakland County, should have never been sent to Iraq,” Rep. Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said in a statement on Twitter. “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.”

“Rest In Peace Jimmy,” Bajoka wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Your blood is on the hands of ICE and this administration.”