VICE NEWS — For 25 Somali migrants who alleged Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers physically and sexually abused them while in custody, their time in the U.S. has ended.
The migrants, part of a group of 113 Africans set for deportation, boarded a plane in Texas on Thursday bound for South Sudan, and Somali officials confirmed their arrival in Mogadishu, ICE said on Friday. A week earlier, Texas civil rights organizations had released a public report detailing the treatment that 30 of the Somali men allegedly endured while at a notorious Texas detention facility: physical and sexual abuse, racial slurs, denial of medical care, and arbitrary placement in solitary confinement.
The complaints prompted a federal investigation that ICE knew about, documents revealed. Still, the agency moved to deport the Somalis. Only five of the 30 men won emergency appeals to stay in the U.S. The rest returned to Somalia, where the terror group al-Shabaab awaits many of them.
Lawyers for the migrants said they filed multiple complaints to local and federal authorities about their clients’ treatment at the detention facility, which included being pepper-sprayed to the point of coughing up blood, hit in the face, and fondled, among other alleged abuse, according to the report. The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, then launched an investigation.
ICE, however, declined to comment on the investigation — or on the veracity of the allegations in the complaints — but said the agency became aware of the migrants’ alleged treatment after the report dropped last week. ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility is now investigating.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations takes very seriously any allegations of misconduct or unsafe conditions,” an ICE spokesperson told VICE News in a statement. “ICE maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abusive behavior and requires all staff working with the agency to adhere to this policy.”
ICE’s El Paso Acting Field Office Director William P. Joyce, however, acknowledged that the Office of the Inspector General had come to Texas to speak to the detainees for the investigation on Monday, according to a Wednesday letter he sent to lawyers representing the detainees.
“We worked in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General to provide access to the named detainees,” the letter reads.
The Office of the Inspector General neither confirmed nor denied the investigation to VICE News, but ICE verified that Joyce’s letter was authentic.
“Insofar as the remainder,” the letter continues, referring to the Somalis who couldn’t secure emergency deportation stays, “there are no legal impediments to their removal, and I am not presently disposed to stay their removal.”
Under the Obama administration, a 2014 policy suggested ICE should consider if people were victims or witnesses to crimes, or if they were seeking civil rights relief, before deciding to deport them. But in 2017, the Trump administration rescinded that policy and most other Obama-era immigration directives.
Somalia is included in the latest iteration of President Trump’s controversial travel ban, which severely restricts travel from eight mostly majority-Muslim countries to the U.S. His administration also deported 521 Somalis in fiscal year 2017, up from 198 the period before, according to federal data.
Prior to Thursday, the Somalis’ deportation flight was rescheduled, and the detainees were moved multiple times. The last-minute changes made it difficult for their families to bring them any possessions, according to the lawyers involved in the case.
“They didn’t have anything to take with them,” said Fatma Marouf, director of Texas A&M law school’s immigrant rights clinic, which is representing men on the flight. “They’d arrive in Somalia with no proper shoes, no clothes, no nothing.”
Even the five Somalis who managed to secure last-minute stays are worried. If they lose their deportation appeals, they’ll likely be sent back to their home country, where al-Shabaab is spreading terror.
One Somali named Abdullahi, for example, fled Mogadishu in 2009 after members of al-Shabaab killed his brother and told him “You’re next,” according to his lawyer. After having his birth certificate stolen, and thus having problems identifying himself in court, he was denied asylum in the U.S. (Abdullahi’s last name has been withheld to protect his identity in the event he loses his appeal to stay in the U.S.)
Here’s a full copy of Joyce’s letter acknowledging the investigation:
Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident
STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.
The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.
The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.
Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.
By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.
The sisters attended high school in Staunton.
The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”
The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.
“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”
Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.
CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing
EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”
That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.
After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.
Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.
“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.
Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.
“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.
She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”
Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.
“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.
She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.
“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”
Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.
“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.
The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.
She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.
“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”
When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway
Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.
Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.
“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”
His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.
When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”
It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.
“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.
“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”
Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.
When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.