ICE Abused Somalis for 2 Days On a Plane and Now Wants to Send Them Into Harm’s Way

Rahim Mohamed’s daughter was born in October, but the 32-year old father, who has been detained in immigration custody since April, has not seen or held her. If Immigration and Customs Enforcement has its way, he won’t get that chance. Instead, he will be summarily deported to Somalia, despite the fact that Rahim fears persecution by Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based affiliate of Al-Qaeda, and would be leaving behind his U.S. citizen wife, toddler son, and infant daughter.

Rahim is one of 92 Somali nationals, currently locked up in Florida, who ICE is rushing to deport before they have a chance to ask to reopen their immigration cases so that a judge can consider the danger to their lives. The Somalis have filed a lawsuit against ICE to stop their immediate deportations. In addition to the ACLU, they are represented by the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law, Americans for Immigrant Justice, the James H. Binger Center for New Americans at the University of Minnesota Law School, the Legal Aid Service of Broward County, and The Advocates for Human Rights.

This week we appeared in federal court to argue that these men and women must receive a full and fair opportunity to reopen their cases before an immigration judge in keeping with due process and habeas corpus rights. It is against U.S. law to deport anyone to a country where they are likely to be persecuted or tortured. Immigration law also permits the reopening of removal orders based on changed circumstances.

However, ICE seems intent on ignoring both of these facts.

It’s a disturbing pattern that’s quickly becoming a calling card of the Trump administration: targeting communities that were previously low-priorities for immigration enforcement and attempting to force them out of the country as hastily as possible, no matter the danger that may await them. In 2017, the ACLU challenged this ICE bully tactic on behalf of a nationwide class of Iraqis and a community of Indonesians in New Hampshire, securing crucial time for our clients to reopen their cases.

For those detained, Somalia is a distant and frightening place. Many have spent years building lives in the United States and, like Rahim, are married to or are the parents of U.S. citizens. As a truck driver with his own small business, Rahim is the primary breadwinner for his family. His parents and his nine siblings are all U.S. citizens, and he does not have any close relatives left in Somalia.

Rahim currently has an immigration petition pending based on his marriage, and, as a victim of a shooting, he was found eligible to apply for a U-Visa, a type of visa for victims of crimes in the United States who have helped law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Despite all this, ICE wants to deport him anyway.

The men and women fear returning to Somalia, citing concerns that their time in the United States will mark them as targets for violence. On October 14, 2017, Al-Shabaab killed more than 300 people in an attack in Mogadishu. Just two weeks later, a second attack killed 23 more people.

What’s more, many of the Somali men and women are still recovering from abuse at the hands of ICE during their first botched deportation attempt. On December 7, the group was put on an airplane bound to Somalia, which was ultimately turned around following a more than 20-hour layover in Dakar, Senegal. The Somalis reported being shackled and beaten by ICE agents and forced to stay seated during the entire 48-hour episode. Rahim, who has diabetes, stated he was denied access to the restroom on the flight and was forced to urinate in bottles and, when he ran out of bottles, on himself. Being shackled the entire time left his legs severely swollen and he sustained an injury to his hand when an ICE agent twisted it. Rahim recounted the humiliation and physical abuse on the plane, including instances of ICE agents choking a man and throwing another on the floor, resulting in visible, bloody injury, as "inhumane, like we were slaves or something."

“I had never felt so disrespected or like I wasn’t a person,” Rahim said.

Rahim with his daughter

Following the ordeal, the Somalis were returned to immigration detention, many at Glades Detention Center where they have reported further abuse, including being denied medical care, the use of pepper spray and excessive use of force. Now, because of widespread media reports of the plane abuse, the Somalis fear that they will be all the more visible targets if deported. The U.S. State Department currently warns against travel to Somalia “because of widespread terrorist and criminal activity.”

It’s clear that the federal government knows the danger that awaits these men and women if deported. It’s disturbing that ICE does not care; but fortunately, the agency is not above the law. As of this week, the judge has stayed any deportations until he rules on January 22, giving Rahim and 91 other Somali nationals hope that the country they know as home won’t deport them into danger.

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W.W. Bell

My greatest fear is that nobody seems to be looking at the effect this could have on our country. Think of how many of these deported people will end up hating the U.S. How many will decide to become terrorists and will come back here to terrorize our country out of hate. And it's not just people originally from Somalia, it's also people from Mexico, El Salvador etc. There are consequences to all we do. Common people think about Cause and Effect before it's too late.


Immigrants have been "scapegoats" for thousands of years. The real problem is the top 1% pay a lower rate than the rest of us.

Immigrants are not only NOT the problem but immigrants are keeping social security solvent for the rest of us.

There aren't enough younger people - without immigrants - to keep the system solvent.

There's a great non-partisan documentary titled "Inequality for All" that reveals some frightening statistics that are very similar to the pre-Great Depression era.

The American social security system only stays solvent by giving immigrants a path to citizenship.


I seriously doubt ICE forced anyone to stay in a plane seat for 48 hours while denying them the use of a restroom. They'd have to replace all those plane seats and/or clean them and who is going to set up a situation with that outcome? Its not logical.


Is it an ICE officer's job to clean it? No.


Thanks for the link so I didn't have to look it up myself. The link you provided gives exceptions for when the US government CAN deport people even if there lives are in danger, specifies scenarios where we can't deport (not just because they feel scared or choose violent partners), and states that the USA doesn't have to re-open the cases of people who have been previously ordered deported and have left the country by any means. Here is the part that says when we can deport people to dangerous situations: (3) Restriction on removal to a country where alien's life or freedom would be threatened
(A) In general

Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), the Attorney General may not remove an alien to a country if the Attorney General decides that the alien's life or freedom would be threatened in that country because of the alien's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
(B) Exception

Subparagraph (A) does not apply to an alien deportable under section 1227(a)(4)(D) of this title or if the Attorney General decides that-

(i) the alien ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of an individual because of the individual's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;

(ii) the alien, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime is a danger to the community of the United States;

(iii) there are serious reasons to believe that the alien committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States before the alien arrived in the United States; or

(iv) there are reasonable grounds to believe that the alien is a danger to the security of the United States.

Dr. Timothy Leary

"Speak Freely"? I The A.C.L.U. has censored my comment(s) again.

Dr. Timothy Leary

The President of the United States doesn't even have freedom of speech. The shithead can't even say shithole.


He can but not when its a truth that might make the world stop and think about WHO is responsible for keeping certain countries from pulling themselves out of abject poverty. Who stole, embezzled, mismanaged, destabilized, and drained dry? Possibly those squawking the loudest? Methinks some of the rich and powerful doth protest too much.

jack cattunar

if you don't want to lose your family because your illegal. Don't start one until you become a citizen of the U.S.A. simple as that.

Anonymous J

Those who can do better and choose to do worse, are are no better than the Putins, the Marcos', the Jung Oons, the Neros and the Trumps of the world. This is just wrong. And I know these ICE facilities are as brutal as they come. They are designed to abuse illegals, more so than maximum security prisons that house the truly evil and depraved. Immigrants are the ones who keep this economy going. Which American who went to college would pick and sell fruit, do heavy lifting construction work, or pay into social security with no hope of ever collecting from it? None. Because most, if not all Americans want to have someone else do the real work, while they sit back and reap the benefits, then say, "oh, it's how the world works, it's capitalism".


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