- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - About 300 people demonstrated outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Albuquerque on Monday to support an Iraqi refugee they say will face death if he is deported because he helped train U.S. soldiers going to Iraq.

Immigrant rights activists and religious leaders waved signs and chanted, “Justice for Kadhim!” as Kadhim Al-bumohammed, 64, prepared for a scheduled meeting with federal immigration authorities. Al-bumohammed walked out of the offices after the appointment was canceled.

“I don’t understand how this can be happening,” Al-bumohammed said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the agency rescheduled some appointments on Monday “for safety and security reasons” because of the demonstration.

Al-bumohammed was ordered to be deported 10 years ago following a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, said Micah McCoy, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico spokesman Micah McCoy said. A judge later granted Al-bumohammed full custody of his children from his ex-wife, who filed the domestic violence charge, McCoy said.

Al-bumohammed had worked as a contractor with the U.S. military from 2004 to 2009 as a linguist assisting in cultural and familiarization programs at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

Monday’s rally came as attorneys asked a federal judge in Michigan to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals.

The U.S. government says 1,400 Iraqis are under deportation orders, though most are not in custody. Some have been under removal orders for years because they committed crimes in the U.S. But legal action over deportations is heating up because Iraq has agreed to accept them.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester called on immigration authorities to exercise compassion with Al-bumohammed, citing his family ties in the U.S.

Wester said he understood immigration authorities were just enforcing the law. “But these laws are antiquated and don’t meet the needs of today,” he said.

In Michigan, lawyers for Detroit-area Iraqi nationals who fear they could be tortured or killed if they’re kicked out of the U.S. asked a judge on Monday to extend his freeze on their deportations to all Iraqis who have been ordered to leave the country.

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith heard arguments but didn’t immediately rule on the matter.

Goldsmith ordered a 14-day stay last week for 114 Iraqi nationals who recently were rounded up in the Detroit area, including many who are Christian.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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