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San Diego’s Chaldean Community Reeling After Deported Chaldean Man’s Death In Iraq

A store in El Cajon, home to the second largest population of Chaldean Iraqis...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: A store in El Cajon, home to the second largest population of Chaldean Iraqis in the United States, on Aug. 16, 2019.

Earlier this month, Jimmy Aldaoud, a Chaldean man from Michigan, died shortly after being deported to Iraq. His family says it was because he lacked access to insulin there.

He was one of the first Chaldeans, a group of Iraqi Christians, to be deported to Iraq following a 2017 agreement between Iraq and the United States. For decades, the U.S. had deemed Iraq too dangerous to accept deportations.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

El Cajon is the center of the second-largest population of Chaldeans in the United States, behind Detroit. Many of them have yet to become citizens, leaving them vulnerable to possible deportation as a result of low-level criminal convictions or other reasons.

Twenty-five year old Marvin Mikha was born in the U.S. to Chaldean parents who left Iraq in the 1980s.

He says the reason a lot of Chaldeans haven’t become citizens because they don’t know how to get help to navigate the difficult process.

“It’s understanding how to apply and when to apply," Mikha said. "There aren’t people knocking on their doors telling them to apply for citizenship. So I think that’s the real barrier here.”

Video: San Diego's Chaldean Community Reeling After Deported Chaldean Man's Death In Iraq

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

He’s active in his church, which helps steer Chaldeans to organizations that help them navigate the years-long citizenship process.

Since 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has identified more than 1,400 Iraqis nationwide who are eligible for removal to Iraq.

Mikha blames for Aldaoud's death on the U.S.'s broken immigration system.

“That happening today is really a failure of our current immigration system, and really a stain on those individuals in our federal government having those immigration debates today,” he said.

Mikha says Chaldeans looking to become citizens can reach out to organizations like the Alliance for African Assistance or the Chaldean Catholic Church.

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