By; Kristi Belcamino
In what has been called a bizarre turn of events, a plane bound for Somalia carrying deportees, including two Twin Cities men, returned to the United States on Friday, landing in Miami.
According to a statement released by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, the flight, containing 92 deportees, turned around after stopping in Senegal to refuel.
“Upon landing for a refueling and pilot exchange at Dakar, Senegal, ICE was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar. The aircraft, including the detainees and crew on board, remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew time to rest. During this time, the aircraft maintained power and air conditioning, and was stocked with sufficient food and water. Various logistical options were explored, and ultimately ICE decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees.”
Two Twin Cities men, Abdoulmalik Ibrahim and Abdihakim Mohamed were on the flight.
Immigration lawyers with Kim Hunter Law group in St. Paul had been working to stop the men’s deportations until the men could obtain due process. On Saturday morning, Hunter called the plane’s return “bizarre” but said it might ultimately benefit the men’s cases to reopen them.
“Any additional time these men get in the United States is beneficial as it gives the agency more time to decide on motions to reopen” their cases, attorney Kim Hunter said.
Hunter said Saturday morning that her office was able to verify that the men’s flight had definitely landed in Miami and that her two clients were being processed at the Krome Detention Center. It was unclear if they would remain at that facility, she said.
“We want to make contact with our clients so we can assure their families of their health and safety,” she said.
“These are men who have faith in the system and had faith that criminal aliens would be the priority for deportation, and so for them and their family, this has been a shock to be deported to a country they haven’t lived in for some 20 years and one that is firmly in the grip of a terrorist organization,” Hunter said.
Ibrahim, a father of four who is married to a permanent U.S. resident, was an Uber driver who had a misdemeanor offense years ago for criminal property damage, Hunter said. He’d made regular check-ins with ICE for the past 15 years, she said. However, when he did so in September, he never came home. Eventually, his family learned he had been detained by the office and would be deported, she said.
Mohamed faced a similar situation when he checked in with ICE. Mohamed, who worked as a personal care attendant, has no criminal record, Hunter said.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Minnesota was closed for the weekend and could not be reached for a comment.