Jimmy Al-Daoud is dead. An Iraqi refugee and Chaldean Christian whose family fled to Detroit when he was less than a year old, Al-Daoud was deported in June and died on the streets of Baghdad. He was 41 years old.
Al-Daoud's death was unnecessary. His family said he was bipolar, schizophrenic, and diabetic. In a video Al-Daoud sent to a friend just a month before his death, he spoke of how difficult it was to survive when he could not speak the language, find insulin for diabetes, or find shelter.
"We didn't know he was deported until he called us crying and pleading for help from Iraq," Rita Al-Daoud, Jimmy's sister, told the Detroit News. "They threatened him to get on the plane and wouldn't allow him to call his sisters or his lawyer. They just dropped him off in the airport in a dangerous area with nothing. No ID. Nothing."
Al-Daoud's deportation was one of hundreds rocking Michigan's Iraqi community. As I wrote last week, more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals, including 114 from Michigan, were swept up in raids following President Trump's travel ban, which bars entry into the U.S. from seven countries, including Iraq. Many of the Iraqi nationals arrested were Chaldean Christians, who will undoubtedly face persecution or even death if sent back.
Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, Al-Daoud's body will be returned to Detroit where he will receive a Catholic funeral and be buried next to his mother. But Al-Daoud's death should rock this nation's conscience and cause us to question the legitimacy of laws that hurt more than they help.
ICE has defended Al-Daoud's deportation, arguing his criminal history, which includes assault with a dangerous weapon, failure to appear in court, malicious destruction of property, resisting, obstructing police, and marijuana possession, justifies his deportation. Maybe they're right. Our laws must be enforced if they are to be obeyed. Justice demands punishment for wrongs committed.
But there's a scene in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice we would do well to remember. Shylock, furious that Antonio hasn't paid back a debt, demands to be allowed to cut out Antonio's flesh to satisfy justice. The other members of this melodrama beg Shylock to stay his hand, but he refuses: "My deeds upon my own head." Shylock, "incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy," relied on an unrelenting standard of justice. He denied mercy, and in doing so, he inadvertently denied himself future forgiveness.
Al-Daoud deserved to face consequences for his crimes, but should that consequence have been deportation? Removing a man to a country he had never stepped foot in because he committed minor crimes is like demanding a pound of flesh for debts unpaid. Justice that refuses to bend isn't justice at all, it's tyranny. It will corrode our system if allowed to prevail.
Jimmy Al-Daoud was not an Iraqi. He was a Detroit native and an American in every sense of the word. He should have been given the opportunity to make his case before the American justice system. President Trump can stop these senseless arrests and allow men like Al-Daoud to stand before a court and appeal. At least give them that much.
A just society is only as good as its capacity for mercy. Without it individuals, and nations, condemn themselves. "The quality of mercy is not strained," Portia tells Shylock. "In the course of justice none of us should see salvation."