For the Christian, there’s no way to look at Jimmy Aldaoud’s case and not be heartbroken.
Aldaoud, 41, was a Detroit native who earned refugee status in the U.S. as a child. Though he was an Iraqi national, he was born in Greece to Christian parents and grew up in America.
He never knew Iraq and didn’t speak a word of Arabic, according to Politico. But in June, he was deported back to the Middle East to a place completely foreign to him. We don’t have all the details surrounding Aldaoud’s situation, but it’s possible he was flagged for deportation because of a previous conviction for home invasion and theft, though the charges were ultimately tossed out.
“Immigration agents pulled me over and said I’m going to Iraq,” Aldaoud said in a video circulated on social media. “I said, ‘I’ve never been there. I’ve been in this country my whole life, since pretty much birth.’ … They refused to listen to me.”
The video was recorded in Baghdad, roughly two weeks after he was deported, according to an immigration attorney, Edward Bajoka, who said he was close to Aldaoud and his family.
It is believed Aldaoud ultimately died in the Middle East because he was unable to obtain the insulin he needed for his diabetes. He was also homeless and reportedly suffering from mental illness.
Aldaoud said he “begged” immigration officials to allow him to stay in the U.S., reiterating the fact he’d “never seen” Iraq.
“Jimmy Aldaoud … should have never been sent to Iraq,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.). “My Republican colleagues and I have repeatedly called on the executive branch to cease deportation of such vulnerable people. Now, someone has died.”
Aldaoud was part of a thriving Chaldean Christian community in Detroit, where hundreds of Catholic refugees have been pleading with the government to be allowed to remain in the country.
This is a pro-life issue that should matter to anyone concerned about Christian persecution around the globe. It is vital to care for the unborn, and it’s equally as important to care for one another at every stage of life after birth.
During an interview with Faithwire last month, Abby Johnson, founder of the pro-life organization And Then There Were None, said it’s “really disheartening” when self-described pro-life conservative Christians turn a blind eye to the border crisis.
“This is an opportunity for us to really be the church,” said Johnson, who, at the time, was talking about delivering goods to migrant children separated from their parents at the country’s southern border.
Each of us is made in the image of God and carry innate significance. With that in mind, it’s important our political leaders approach the issue of immigration carefully because their actions have consequences.
The left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union has argued Chaldean Christians sent back to Iraq will face “violent persecution” because of their faith. And the advocacy organization Open Doors International ranks Iraq as a country with “very high” persecution of Christians.
“There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety in the community,” said Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation. “Iraq’s not a safe place for many of the people who are being sent back.”
Over the course of the last couple years, the number of Christian refugees who have been allowed to enter the U.S. has been steadily declining. The raw data reveals the number of Christian refugees entering the country fell from 37,521 in fiscal year 2016 to a projected year-end total of 22,747 in 2019, according to the Religion News Service. Those numbers mark a 39 percent decrease.
The issue of illegal immigration is a difficult one to navigate, and it’s not new. The current White House administration is struggling to solve it just like former presidents. But there has to be a better way.
We cannot send those at a high risk of persecution straight into the arms of their oppressors. This is not a political issue; it’s a life issue. Our hearts should break as we pray for our leaders, for Aldaoud’s surviving family, and for the immigrants and refugees fearful of what the future might hold.