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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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UK

LONDON: Crowd pickets Wormwood Scrubs demanding justice following death of inmate

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GET WEST LONDON — More than two weeks on from the fatal stabbing of a young man in his Wormwood Scrubs prison cell a large crowd gathered outside the Shepherd’s Bush institution to protest.

Khader Ahmed Sahel, 25, was of Somali origin and his sudden death on January 31 has shocked and angered a tight knit community who believe it could have been prevented.

On Thursday (February 15) Khader’s mother, Amima Duleah, and his older brother, Said Yusuf, both from Northolt, Ealing, were among those to picket the prison’s gates in Du Cane Road, demanding justice.

Following his death Khader’s 20-year-old wife Salma has been left to bring up their two-year-old son, Ahmed, alone.

Speaking to getwestlondon Mr Yusuf, 29, described the last time he visited his brother in prison, he said: “His state was a bit bad, you could see the violence from his body – he’d been in fights inside

“He was mentioning that there was no safety inside and that there was neglect from the guards.

“He was scared inside the prison – for his life.”

He added: “We want justice for him and we would like for this prison to either be closed or to be fixed so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The protest was organised by Somali campaigning group Gaashaan, which has set up a petition asking the Ministry of Justice to combat the issue of violence in prisons and reassess the safety of inmates in institutions across the country.

Speaking to getwestlondon, Gaashaan leader Sahel Ali said: “We are coming together to protest against the brutal stabbing of an inmate of Somali ethnic background, Khader Sahel.

“Khader was 25 years old, he was at the beginning of his life, he left behind a family and a child.”
Salma Hassan, has been widowed aged 20 after her husband was fatally stabbed in Wormwood Scrubs prison on January 31 (Image: Salma Hassan)

He added: “There is nothing wrong with locking up people who commit crimes or break the law of the land but what we are unhappy, angry about and against is that people’s safety inside jails has been compromised.

“And this happened a month after a report was published highlighting a surge in prison violence – that is what people are angry about today.”

A prison inspection in December revealed a high surge in violence on top of chronic staff shortages and lack of food at Wormwood Scrubs.

Following the report Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said it painted “an extremely concerning picture.”

Wormwood Scrubs inmates Ahmed Khayre, 21, Enton Marku, 20, and Khalif Dibbassey, 21, all appeared at the Old Bailey charged with Mr Saleh’s murder on Tuesday (February 6).

The Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, remanded all three defendants in custody.

Dutch national Mr Khayre, of HMP Belmarsh, British national Mr Marku, of HMP Wandsworth, and French national Mr Dibbassey, of HMP High Down, will return to court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on April 24.

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Canada’s institutions repeatedly failed former child refugee Abdoul Abdi

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The ethical case to fight the deportation of former child refugee Abdoul Abdi from Canada is a straightforward one with no visible shades of grey.

Yet it has ballooned into a needless battle exposing federal and provincial indifference to non-citizen children.

On Feb. 15, a Federal Court will hear an emergency request to temporarily stop Abdi’s deportation.

The broad strokes of Abdi’s story are these.

Instability was the only constant in the life of this man, born 24 years ago in Saudi Arabia to a Saudi father and Somali mother. He lived for four years at a refugee camp in Djibouti and then at age 6 landed in Canada along with his sister and aunts.

At age 8, child protective services scooped him and his sister out of their aunt’s home for reasons unknown. This is not surprising — research in Ontario last year showed Aboriginal and Black children are far more likely to be investigated and taken into care than white children.

The family now speculates this could be because their aunt, who didn’t speak much English, took too long to register them for school.

Abdi bounced around among not one or two or a dozen homes but 31 of them, some, he says, abusive situations. A study last year by Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth linked foster care experiences to later outcomes of homelessness and criminality, among others.
Abdi, too, got sucked into illegal activities.

When he messed up, he faced the consequences. About four years in prison for multiple offences, including aggravated assault.

He is also paying the price for errors by the system.

On Jan. 4, no alarm bells were sounded in the labyrinthine corridors of power in Canada, when Canada Border Services Agency officers arrested Abdi as he left prison after serving his sentence and was at the gates of a halfway house.

They were going to deport him, they said. Send him packing because it turned out the kid who grew up in Canada was not a Canadian citizen. His crown parents — the Department of Community Services — had never applied for a citizenship for him.

Where was he being banished? Not to Saudi, his birthplace, which might have been the logical though still unjustifiable choice, but to Somalia, the place of his mother’s ethnic origins, a place so dangerous that Canadian officials and planes don’t go there. A place whose language Abdi does not speak, and where he knows no one.

Repeatedly abandoned as a child, Abdi is now an officially unwanted adult.

It has taken a village, for us to hear of Abdi.

More accurately, it has taken a set of extraordinarily large-hearted individuals, many of whom have never met Abdi, but who are tied together by a passionate rejection of injustice to bring his story to the forefront of our nation’s conscience.

Last month, Halifax poet laureate and activist El Jones chronicled in the Halifax Examiner just one week of the collective action taken for Abdi.

In it she wove the stories of disparate lives criss-crossing through past injustices. How Jones came across Abdi via Coralee Smith, the mother of Ashley Smith who died in 2007, asphyxiated from a ligature tied around her neck as correctional officers watched.

How Abdi’s sister Fatouma courageously challenged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall in Nova Scotia, thereby ensuring national attention on this case.

How Jones and journalist/activist Desmond Cole questioned Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen at a National Black Summit in that city, and endured criticisms of being disruptive and rude and not supporting a fellow Black minister.

“As though,” Jones writes, “having a Black man sign the deportation papers is progress.”

She writes of Abdi’s “fantastic” lawyer Ben Perryman who finds himself suddenly under the glare of media spotlight.

And of the near-misses, the small successes, the support and amplification from Black Lives Matter and academics/activists Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi, and student activist Masuma Khan among others.

Here is an important thing:

“All of us have jobs, and school, and families,” she writes. “This isn’t even the only thing we’re advocating on this week, because there’s always more suffering, more rights being denied, more people in need.”

Yet Jones writes of hope, and of love that carries them forward.

Their undertaking serves to underline the inhumanity of the decisions that mark this case.

Federal minister of public safety Ralph Goodale refused to pause a deportation hearing while Abdi’s lawyers mount a constitutional challenge to his deportation. At its hearing on March 7, the Immigration and Refugee Board will not review the complexities of the case to decide if Abdi can enter or remain in the country, his lawyer told the CBC. His criminal record will inevitably lead to a deportation order, he said.

A deportation order would automatically strip Abdi’s permanent resident status.

No PR status means he can’t keep his job, means he risks going back to prison; being employed is a condition for his release.

And round and round it goes.

This is the face of institutions ganging up against vulnerable individuals. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an audience in Quebec it’s time to recognize anti-Black racism exists in Canada. “Canada can and must do better,” he said.

What are we waiting for?

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Diaspora

Why a group of Seattle mothers and children came together to write their own alphabet book

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SEATTLE TIMES — Over meals of traditional food and tea, five Somali mothers and their children gathered in their NewHolly neighbourhood this past year to create a children’s book.

The Seattle families brought in family possessions, rooted in Somali culture, to be photographed to appear alongside the appropriate letter of the alphabet. The plan now is to distribute 1,000 copies of “Baro Af-Soomaali” locally, before marketing the book more broadly.

Necessity was the mother of invention for these families as they decided to do something about the fact that even in Seattle — where the Somali community is among the largest in the nation — there aren’t enough books in Somali.

The Seattle Public Library has about 200 books in Somali, according to the library system, and under half are children’s books. There are very few board books.

Packed into the NewHolly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle, a crowd of hundreds celebrated the launch Friday of the new children’s alphabet board book, “Baro Af-Soomaali,” for the Seattle Public Library system and beyond. The title translates to “learning Somali.”

The overarching goal of the project: to provide a tool for Somali parents who want to share their culture while teaching their children English.

During their workshops, each family was assigned letters and began creating artwork for the book. They brought in family possessions, rooted in Somali culture, to be photographed to appear alongside the appropriate letter of the alphabet. Next to “D,” for instance, is the word “Dambiil” and a picture of a basket.

Project leaders plan to distribute 1,000 copies of “Baro Af-Soomaali” locally, before marketing it to libraries, schools and retailers across the country and globe, according to the library system and Seattle Housing Authority. The book will also be available as a free PDF download on the system’s website.

The book was funded in part by The Seattle Public Library Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Race to the Top Deep Dive 3 with Puget Sound Educational Service District and Community Center for Education Results.

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