ABQ family of Iraqi man fears for his safety if he's deported - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ family of Iraqi man fears for his safety if he’s deported

Brenda Sisneros, left, wife of Abbas Al-Sokaini, breaks down in tears as she describes her Iraqi husband’s arrest and detention, as their daughter, Sandi Mendoza, listens. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Brenda Sisneros’ world took a horrific turn on June 20 with a loud knock on the door of the family’s home, leading to her husband’s arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

“I went to the door and there were two ICE officers asking to talk to him,” Sisneros recalled recently. “They said they just wanted to ask him a couple questions.”

The 9 a.m. visit surprised the couple because Abbas Al-Sokaini, 52, had an appointment to meet with ICE officials just three days later.

When ICE officers demanded that Al-Sokaini leave with them, he told his wife of 13 years that he would not be allowed to return home.

“He hugged me,” Sisneros said, her eyes filling with tears. “He said: ‘They’re not going to bring me back. They’re not going to let you come get me. They’re taking me.’ ”

Abbas Al-Sokaini

A day later, the 20-year Albuquerque resident and home-health worker was in ICE detention in El Paso facing deportation to Iraq.

He remained in the El Paso facility Friday, ICE detention records show, and it’s not clear when – or if – he will be released.

Al-Sokaini is named as a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of more than 1,400 Iraqis nationwide who face deportation to a country they fled years or decades ago, often as refugees.

“The grounds for the entire case were that returning people to Iraq would expose them to persecution, torture and possible death,” said Kristin Greer Love, an attorney for the ACLU in Albuquerque.

The Iraqis facing deportation have criminal backgrounds in the United States for a variety of offenses. Al-Sokaini pleaded no contest in 2000 to possession of cocaine and conspiracy to possess cocaine, both felonies, and a 2nd Judicial District judge in Albuquerque sentenced him to three years of probation, court records show.

As in Al-Sokaini’s case, more than half the Iraqis facing deportation were convicted of criminal offenses a decade ago or longer, Love said. The convictions led ICE to obtain “orders of removal” that could result in their deportations.

“Country conditions in Iraq have changed dramatically over that period,” Love said. “The due process argument is that people need a meaningful opportunity to appear before an immigration judge before they are deported on these old orders of removal.”

Al-Sokaini recently obtained free representation by a Los Angeles attorney for his immigration case, Love said.

For decades, Iraq refused to accept deported Iraqi nationals. But, in March, Iraq agreed to accept the deportees after President Donald Trump’s administration dropped Iraq from a list of six predominantly Muslim countries that faced travel restrictions to the United States.

ICE subsequently began a sweep of Iraqis with deportation orders, leading to the arrests of Al-Sokaini and more than 200 other Iraqis nationwide.

Another Albuquerque man, Kadhim Al-bumohammed, is also among the 1,400 Iraqis included in the Michigan class-action suit.

Al-bumohammed, 61, did not appear in July at a scheduled meeting at the ICE field office in Albuquerque and instead sought sanctuary at a local church.

In 1997 in California, Al-bumohammed was convicted twice of misdemeanor domestic violence charges.

A federal judge in Michigan ordered a stay July 24 that, for now, prevents the U.S. government from deporting the Iraqis.

Many of those facing deportation say they would be persecuted if they returned to Iraq, either for their religious beliefs, or for collaborating with U.S. military personnel.

Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman in Dallas, said recently that anyone in violation of U.S. immigration laws is subject to deportation, regardless of circumstances.

“ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” Rusnok said in a written statement. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention” and deportation, he said.

Al-bumohammed aided the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War and later taught language and cultural awareness to U.S. soldiers at military bases in California, supporters said.

Brenda Sisneros and Abbas Al-Sokaini photographed in 2014 celebrating a 10-year renewal of their marriage. Al-Sokaini is in ICE detention in El Paso. (Courtesy of Sandi Mendoza)

For Al-Sokaini, deportation to Iraq would endanger his life for two reason, his wife said.

First, Al-Sokaini attends a Baptist church in Albuquerque, and people in Iraq are aware of his Christian beliefs, which would mark him for retribution in Muslim-majority Iraq, Sisneros said.

In addition, Al-Sokaini collaborated with the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War by leading soldiers to a cache of weapons and ammunition, she said.

“It is dangerous for him to go back there,” she said.

Sisneros, who said she voted for Trump, said she supported his campaign promise to deport career criminals from the United States.

“I thought that President Trump’s thing was going (to deport) people who were constantly in trouble,” Sisneros said. “There are people here who have no good intentions for our country, but (Abbas) isn’t one of them. He loves America.”

The couple have three adult children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Sisneros describes her husband as a hard worker who drives for Lyft and Uber in addition to his work as a home-health worker.

“He wasn’t hurting anyone,” Sisneros said of her husband. “He was just living the way Americans should live. We just want to keep our family together and let us live our lives.”

The family of Brenda Sisneros and her husband, Abbas Al-Sokaini, who was arrested by ICE on June 20 and remains in detention in El Paso. (Courtesy of Sandi Mendoza)

Home » News » Albuquerque News » ABQ family of Iraqi man fears for his safety if he’s deported


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire now largest wildfire in state ...
ABQnews Seeker
The teams battling the Calf Canyon/Hermits ... The teams battling the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire said Monday morning that the blaze has grown to more than 298,000 acres, making it the ...
2
In US, states struggle to replace fossil fuel tax ...
ABQnews Seeker
Government budgets are booming in New ... Government budgets are booming in New Mexico: Teacher salaries are up, residents can go to an in-state college tuition-free, moms will get medical care ...
3
Zanetti leaning on military lessons in governor's race
ABQnews Seeker
NM should pursue both high-, low-tech ... NM should pursue both high-, low-tech solutions to economic challenges, says GOP hopeful
4
As winds relent, fire grows by 9K acres
ABQnews Seeker
Officials: Chance for thunderstorms Monday Officials: Chance for thunderstorms Monday
5
Can ABQ crush speeders' cars? It did $1M in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Forfeiture Act determines legal framework for ... Forfeiture Act determines legal framework for impounding cars
6
Stage set for the return of Summerfest
ABQnews Seeker
Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ... Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ...
7
Additional floors will allow for UNMH's future expansion
ABQnews Seeker
New tower will house updated surgical ... New tower will house updated surgical rooms
8
Lobos land skilled forward transfer Josiah Allick
ABQnews Seeker
The UNM Lobos got a commitment ... The UNM Lobos got a commitment Sunday from 6-8 forward Josiah Allick, who played the past three seasons at UMKC.
9
Multiple vehicles involved in crash on westbound I-40
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police responded to a major ... Albuquerque police responded to a major wreck Sunday evening that forced the closure of westbound lanes of Interstate 40. Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman, ...