An Iraqi man, who was brought to the U.S. as an infant from a refugee camp in Greece, and who died of a diabetic crisis in Baghdad after being deported by the Trump administration, will be brought back to the U.S. for burial, a congressman involved in his case said Friday
Jimmy Aldaoud, 41, suffered from mental illness as well as diabetes, and without regular access to insulin or proper medical care in Iraq, he died in a country that he never knew. He was deported on June 2, according to lawyers, after being detained by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
"I begged them. I said, 'Please, I've never seen that country. I've never been there," Aldaoud said in a video reportedly recorded two and a half weeks after his deportation and shared by a Michigan state representative Thursday.
"I'm here now, and I don't understand the language, anything. I've been sleeping in the street. I'm diabetic, I take insulin shots. I've been throwing up, throwing up, sleeping in the streets, trying to find something to eat," he said in the video.
Iraqi and American officials have initiated the process of transferring Aldaoud’s remains to Michigan, a statement from Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., said. The process of transferring the remains is expected to be completed later this month, his statement said.
“Jimmy’s deportation was a death sentence,” Levin said. “Ensuring the safe return of Jimmy’s body to the United States is the least I could do for Jimmy’s family as they grieve during this tragedy. Now, per Jimmy’s family’s wishes, he can receive a proper Catholic funeral and be buried next to his mother in Michigan, the only home he has ever known," the statement said.
“Our family’s wish would have been for Jimmy to return alive to the only home he ever knew and not in a casket,” Rita Bolis, Aldaoud's sister, was quoted as saying.“We are comforted that he will be laid to rest next to our mom.”
Levin's statement said the Chaldean Community Foundation has agreed to cover the costs associated with repatriating Aldaoud's body.
There are conflicting reports about where Aldaoud was born. A family friend said he was born in a refugee camp in Greece, while one of his lawyers said he was born in Iraq and his family fled to Greece shortly afterwards. Either way, once in Greece, the family applied for refugee status in the U.S., where Aldaoud arrived when he was, at most, a 1-year-old child.
He had a criminal history, including disorderly conduct, but "his mental health was the primary reason for his legal issues that led to his deportation," according to Edward Bajoka, an attorney and family friend, who said Aldaoud was a paranoid schizophrenic.
Aldaoud is one of hundreds of Chaldean Iraqis -- an ancient Catholic sect with roots in modern-day Iraq, that has been historically persecuted in the Middle East -- who the Trump administration has moved to deport. Some, like Aldaoud, have lived in the U.S. for decades.
"Jimmy's death has devastated his family and us. We knew he would not survive if deported. What we don't know is how many more people ICE will send to their deaths," Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan branch, told ABC News in a statement.
The ACLU was part of a 2017 lawsuit against the administration on behalf of Chaldeans and other Iraqis who have been facing deportation. In June of that year, ICE agents began arresting hundreds of Iraqis in the Detroit area who had final orders of removal because of previous criminal records.
Initially, a federal judge ruled that the group of Iraqis still had the right to appear before an immigration court and plead their case before facing deportation, in particular because they would face persecution and increased violence in Iraq. More than 300 Iraqis were able to ask an immigration court to rehear their case, with 40 or so winning relief so far, according to the ACLU.
But last December, a higher court overruled that decision, and this past April, it closed the door to further hearings. Weeks later, Aldaoud was detained by ICE and deported.
Levin's district includes the largest Iraqi-born community in the country. "My Republican colleagues and I have repeatedly called on the executive branch to cease deportation of such vulnerable people. Now, someone has died. We cannot wait one more day for action."
Levin and his Republican colleague John Mollenaar have introduced legislation that would give Iraqi nationals with removal orders two years of relief from deportation to have their cases heard by an immigration court.
He and other lawmakers from both parties have appealed to the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to follow through on their stated commitment to protecting Christians in the Middle East by providing relief for this community.
ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.