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Immigration arrests target Somalis in Atlanta area

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Federal immigration authorities have started arresting Somali nationals in parts of DeKalb and Gwinnett counties that have long been havens for newcomers, including in Clarkston, according to African advocacy groups.

The arrests came after Somalia’s U.S. ambassador recently told Voice of America his embassy has learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is planning to deport about 4,000 of his countrymen. ICE confirmed that, as of last week, there were 4,801 Somalis in the U.S. who have been ordered removed. The vast majority of them are not being detained.

Until about a year ago, according to ICE, U.S. authorities could not get travel documents to deport people to Somalia, which has endured persistent deprivation and violence. Since Oct. 1, ICE has deported 237 Somalis, according to federal figures through April 1.

As part of a nationwide operation in February, ICE detained more than 680 unauthorized immigrants from various nations, including 87 people in Georgia.

ICE’s latest arrests also follow President Donald Trump’s attempts to temporarily ban visitors from Somalia and five other Muslim-majority countries as well as refugees from around the world. Trump says his executive order – now on hold in federal courts amid constitutional challenges – is needed so his administration can boost its security screening process for visitors. An ICE spokesman emphasized his agency is not targeting people for deportation based on their religion.

Omar Shekhey, the executive director for the Somali American Community Center in Clarkston, said as many as 10 Somalis have been arrested in Clarkston, Stone Mountain and in Gwinnett this week alone. He worries they could be deported to Somalia, which is now in the grips of a deadly drought. Those who have been arrested have been in the U.S. for many years, Shekhey said.

“They don’t know anything about Somalia,” he said. “They don’t even speak the language, most of them. So it is going to be very difficult for them to go there.”

Glory Kilanko, director and CEO of Women Watch Afrika, said she is aware of eight Somali immigrants and refugees who have been arrested in ICE “raids” in Clarkston since last week.

“Everybody is feeling insecure,” she said. “People are beginning to hide and be afraid of law enforcement. They are saying they feel terrorized by ICE’s presence.”

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox pushed back against Kilanko’s use of the term “raids” and said no refugees have been arrested. Those who were arrested, Cox said, entered the U.S. without authorization and have been ordered deported by federal immigration judges.

ICE makes arrests every day in the course of its ordinary, routine targeted enforcement operations,” he said. “There is no special operation taking place in Clarkston. As I’ve said repeatedly, ICE only conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy. ICE does not conduct checkpoints nor sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately. Any claims to the contrary are simply false.”

Among those arrested Tuesday in the Atlanta area, according to Cox, was Abdull Issak. A federal immigration judge in May of 1998 ordered him removed. Issak has numerous criminal convictions in DeKalb, Cox added. ICE took Ibrahim Ahmed Musa into custody Wednesday. He was ordered deported in June of 1998, Cox said.

The Trump administration recently issued a sweeping set of new guidelines that begin the process for building a new southwest border wall, hiring 15,000 immigration enforcement and Border Patrol officers and enlisting the help of local authorities in deporting people. Those directives vastly increase the pool of people prioritized for expulsion.

“ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” Cox said. “All of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry said he is looking into ICE’s activities in his city, adding he is worried how the arrests could impact the relationships between immigrants and refugees and local police.

“Basically, you are pushing an entire group of people underground,” he said. “And that is definitely not going to make Clarkston safer.”

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Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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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.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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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.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in 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.

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