'Back To My Life:' A Portland Man Won't Be Deported To Somalia - At Least, For Now

Sep 5, 2019

A federal immigration judge has ruled that a 46-year-old Portland man won't be deported to Somalia — at least for now — under the United Nations convention against torture, because of issues related to the political situation there.

Abdigani Hussein first came to the United States as a refugee after he and his mother were both shot. His mother was killed. He is now a permanent U.S. resident and lives in Portland with his wife and three children.

In 2002, he was arrested and sentenced to probation for possessing khat, a mild stimulant grown in East Africa that is illegal in the United States. His record placed him under threat of deportation under  the Trump Administration's crackdown on immigrants convicted of crimes .

When he showed up for his regular check-in with ICE, as part of the agreement that allowed him to stay in the country, Hussein was arrested, detained for months without a hearing, and was almost deported. He spoke with Maine Public’s Nora Flaherty.

Hussein: They arrested me in the South Portland office of immigration, and they took me to the Cumberland County Jail. And I believe I spent three days, and then they transferred me to a detention center in New Hampshire, start processing me for deportation.

Nora Flaherty: And you were almost deported.

Almost. They transferred me to New Hampshire then to the New Orleans, Louisiana, that's the headquarters of the deportation center. The jail has a couple runways, landing and takeoff. Night and day, they are taking people away. I was [scheduled to be] on one of the flights, and when I was getting into the airplane, the guy came, and he called my name and another person, and he said "these two people, they're not going. Send them back to the cells."

Being in detention, and then almost being deported, what did this do to your life and your family?

My children, they couldn't focus on school because they missed me. I almost give up on life...My whole family was [in] pain. And my children, they didn't understand why I'm in jail. They keep asking me what I did...And, you know, I couldn't explain. "I had a one year probation in 2002. That's why I'm in jail."

A federal immigration judge has ruled that you should not be deported to Somalia at this moment, for human rights reasons, although the government can still appeal this and you could be deported later. This decision was made on the basis that Somalia would not be a safe place for you right now. What would happen if you were to return?

If I return? I believe that's like, the death penalty... My life is in danger. If I go back, that's, that's what I believe.

So even even given that this is a temporary relief, rather than a permanent change, how do you feel right now?

I feel so lucky. And I don't know how many days I have left of my life but I'm still, you know, hanging on. And I'm happy for this decision.

And how does your family feel?

Oh my god, you cannot imagine how they feel. They feel like you know, I was reborn again.

What happens now?

Right now my life, regular routine. I go back to my work and play with my kids and, you know, take them into school and bring them back, and I go back to my routine life. And I don't know how long it's going to be this way.

Ed note: this interview was edited for time and clarity.