U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported a group of 39 migrants to Somalia, despite Rep. Ilhan Omar calling the move “cruel.”
Omar sent a letter to ICE Sept. 10 “to get answers” on the deportation of Somali individuals from her district due to concerns that it could spread COVID-19. Omar claimed that deporting infected individuals could have “far-reaching consequences” for her country of birth, which has 15 intensive care beds for a population of 15 million people. The representative later claimed that one of the individuals who was going to be deported already tested positive for the virus.
“Deporting immigrants during a pandemic is cruel — but deporting immigrants infected with COVID-19 and exporting the virus to other countries is on an entirely different level of inhumane,” Omar said on Twitter.
Deporting immigrants during a pandemic is cruel — but deporting immigrants infected with COVID-19 and exporting the virus to other countries is on an entirely different level of inhumane.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 18, 2020
ICE must be held accountable.https://t.co/8aBPbaq01q
“Let’s be clear — deporting people who have COVID-19 is pure cruelty — not just for the individuals themselves, but for the countless who could contract the illness. And we know that ICE has done this before,” she later told Roll Call.
Roughly a week later, on Sept. 18, ICE announced on Twitter that the 39 Somalis were deported, and responded to Omar with a letter written by Tony Pham, acting director of ICE. In the letter, Pham thanked Omar, explained ICE’s COVID-19 safety procedures, and listed the crimes committed by the deportees, 36 of whom have criminal histories.
“These crimes include murder, rape, domestic violence, assault, sexual assault, crimes against children, drug trafficking, and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. These individuals have created countless victims and were serious threats to the public,” said Pham.
Today’s flight to Somalia included the removal of dangerous criminals. Read more ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/E2bWzcj708— ICE (@ICEgov) September 19, 2020
“ICE is cooperating with the government of Somalia’s requirement to test all Somali nationals being repatriated,” he added.
One of the deported individuals was convicted of rape, indecent liberties, and “communication with a minor for immoral purposes.” Another was guilty of statutory sexual assault of a minor while a third was convicted of second-degree murder.
ICE confirmed with Alpha News that one of the 39 individuals was Mahdi Mohammed Hashi, a member of the terrorist organization al-Shabaab who was extradited to the U.S. in 2012 to face federal prosecution. Hashi arrived in Britain as a refugee from Somalia at the age of five, was accused of associating with extremists at 16, and lost his British citizenship at the age of 26 in 2012. Hashi was then captured in Djibouti and sent to the U.S. where he stayed in solitary confinement and plead guilty to aiding al-Shabaab.
The letter goes on to explain that any detainee who is suspected of having a contagious disease or fails a screening is denied boarding and held back for further testing.
“For countries requiring a negative COVID-19 test result prior to removal, all aliens transported to the flight line have tested negative for COVID-19,” said Pham. “Upon arrival at the flight line, for a removal flight, aliens must also be medically cleared for travel by a medical professional.”