“If I had a female Somali with no criminal record, who entered illegally and got a deport order, I would tell her not to worry for quite some time,” said immigration attorney Marit Karbowski. “If somebody with an assault conviction comes in, I would tell them we should work hard on their case because they can’t just rest on the fact that Somalis don’t get deported anymore.”
ICE would not discuss the process of returning detainees, citing concerns for the safety of its officers. But immigration lawyers and others say it’s likely ICE officers fly with a detainee to neighboring Kenya, where the detainee is turned over to a contractor for travel into Somalia. For safety reasons, it’s unlikely ICE officers actually cross into Somalia. In its statement, ICE would say only that “it works closely with foreign governments to coordinate the safe return of aliens to their respective countries.”
Sadik Warfa, a Somali community activist in Minneapolis, has been in contact with some deportees. He said they find themselves targeted and isolated.
“They were sent back to a country they left when they were toddlers,” he said. “Even the Somalis will suspect them. They don’t see them as Somalis. The country is very fragile. I would ask our American government not to deport.’’
It’s not the first time that deportations to Somalia have raised concerns. In a previous challenge, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled the federal government had the right to return the detainees. But the United States suspended deportations to Somalia in 2005 after a failed attempt to send back Minnesota detainee Keyse Jama.
Some of those being deported have a slew of minor offenses and perhaps one felony conviction. On paper, few look like solid candidates to be given a second chance at life in the United States.
Besides his prison time, Kamas Ahmed’s criminal record includes convictions for disorderly conduct, fourth-degree assault and assorted liquor violations. He said he has admitted his mistakes and served his time. He said he should be allowed to await his fate with his American-born fiancée and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter. Instead, he has been in ICE custody since February.
“I consider myself as an American,” he said. “This is all I know.”
‘He made those choices’
Convicted sex offenders have made up the first wave of deportations because they are believed most likely to be a danger to public safety. Even advocates acknowledge they have been hard to defend.
“We can only do what the law allows us to do. If you have a conviction for a sexual offense we’re going to tell you not to waste your money on hiring us,” said Marc Prokosch, chairman of the Minnesota/Dakotas chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Ali Khalif Hasan, for instance, awaits his fate in the Sherburne County jail after serving time in South Dakota for raping a 12-year-old girl who ran away from home.
Minneapolis resident Kasim Bashir served time in prison for his part in the gang-style sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in 1998. After his release he became a community activist in Minneapolis’ Somali community, coordinating a youth basketball league. He was deported last November.
In a 1998 court motion pleading for leniency, Bashir’s lawyer made an unusual argument.
“He will prefer to be deported, instead of going to prison. That is how afraid the defendant is of going to prison,” the motion said. “The defendant will accept deportation to his war-torn country, where there is a pronounced possibility that he will be killed as his father was.”
To Holly Zschokke, the mother of his victim, Bashir’s fate seems appropriate. Her daughter, who does not share her last name, is now 30 and continues to live with the trauma of the assault she endured.