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The man who's the face of Iraqis fighting deportation goes free on bond

Feb 1, 2018

The Metro Detroit man who’s become the face of about 200 Iraqis fighting deportation was allowed to walk free on bond after an immigration judge’s ruling on Thursday.

Usama Hamama, better known as Sam, has been in jail since he was swept up in immigration raids last June. Those raids centered in Metro Detroit, and targeted Iraqi nationals with prior criminal convictions.

The government wants to deport them, but they’ve fought back with a lawsuit claiming they would face persecution and possible death if returned to Iraq. Most of his fellow detainees are, like him, Chaldean Christians or other religious minorities.

Hamama is the lead plaintiff in the class-action case, Hamama v. Adducci. The federal judge presiding over the case has put a temporary halt to those deportations, and ruled individual immigration cases should go ahead while the larger case proceeds.

At Hamama’s bond hearing, the government did not argue he poses a threat to the community. He has one road-rage related assault conviction from 1988, where he waved a gun at another motorist, and a clean record since then.

The government did argue that Hamama poses a flight risk because he faces “a standing order of removal” and should be “held without bond based on risk of flight.”

But Hamama’s lawyer, Randy Samona, said Hamama is unlikely to flee. He said Hamama owns a home in West Bloomfield, manages a grocery store in Harper Woods, and has a U.S. citizen wife and four U.S.-born children.

Samona also said that Hamama, who has lived in the U.S. since 1974, has complied with all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders in the past and at this point has no real ties outside the U.S. or Michigan.

Hamama, who attended the Detroit bond hearing via videoconference from the St. Clair County Jail, also pledged to comply with all government orders if released on bond. “I just want to go home and see my children,” he said. “I will do whatever I can do to make it in this country.”

Hamama’s immigration case has yet to be formally re-opened because of a government backlog, Hamama said. However, Judge Mark Jebsen agreed that if Hamama’s case is re-opened, there’s a good likelihood his deportation would be waived because of a provision in immigration law that applies to people whose criminal records date before 1997.

Jebsen said he had some concerns about Hamama fleeing, but noted that his “lifestyle and landscape of the past 30 years shows he should be accountable.” He set bond at $100,000.

Both Samona and Hamama’s family declined comment after the hearing. Hamama posted bail and was released from jail Friday.

*This post was last updated on Feb. 2 at 4:13 pm.