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US lawmakers demand Trump halt Iraqi deportations after Detroit man's death

Democratic members of Congress say the administration is 'knowingly and willingly' risking peoples' lives
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been targeted for deportation from the US (Reuters)

Dozens of Democratic members of Congress have urged Donald Trump to halt the deportation of Iraqi immigrants after a Detroit man died in Baghdad this month following his forcible removal from the United States.

US immigration authorities began serving Iraqi immigrants with deportation orders after Baghdad agreed to accept deportees from the US in 2017, reversing a decades-old policy.

Since then, hundreds of Iraqi Christians, many of whom came to the US as children, have been targeted for deportation.

"Your administration's total failure to act calls into question its stated interest in protecting religious minorities, especially Christians, from persecution, and underscores the horrific consequences of your immigration policies," the lawmakers said in their letter, released on Tuesday.

'It is incumbent upon us to act, in this moment of tragedy, to ensure that this never happens again'

- Democratic lawmakers

The US president previously decried the targeting of Christians by militant groups in the Middle East.

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"Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!" he tweeted in early 2017.

The letter's signatories also expressed "outrage and grief" over the death of Jimmy Aldaoud, who died two months after his deportation to Iraq due to a lack of medical care to treat his diabetes.

Aldaoud, who also suffered from mental health issues, moved to the US when he was six months old. He was deported from the US state of Michigan in June.

A video in which he described his struggle to cope with life in Iraq went viral after his death.

"I don't understand the language," Aldaoud said in the video. "I'm sleeping in the street. I'm diabetic. I take insulin shots. I’ve been throwing up... trying to find something to eat. I've got nothing over here."

Death sentence

Immigration advocates say Aldaoud's story confirms their fears that deporting people to Iraq amounts to a death sentence

In their letter, the more than 40 members of Congress also accused the Trump administration of knowingly endangering the lives of Iraqi immigrants.

"National attention is now focused on Jimmy's heartbreaking story. It is incumbent upon us to act, in this moment of tragedy, to ensure that this never happens again," they said. 

"If your administration continues to deport Iraqi nationals, it knowingly and willingly risks more preventable deaths."

'We knew from the moment [Aldaoud] was deported that he would not survive'

- Miriam Aukerman, ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an advocacy group that has been representing Iraqi immigrants in court, said the administration has shown no signs of relenting in its efforts to deport Iraqi immigrants after Aldaoud's death.

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency responsible for enforcing deportation orders, condemned Aldaoud to death simply because he wasn't born in the US.

She said his death was the "predictable and inevitable" outcome of sending him to Iraq. 

"We knew from the moment he was deported that he would not survive," Aukerman told MEE earlier this week.

"The only thing we didn't know is how many more people ICE would send to their death, and how many more families would be devastated the way that Jimmy's family has been devastated." 

ICE has not returned MEE's request for comment on whether the agency plans to change its approach after Aldaoud's death.

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