ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Iraqi man who took sanctuary in an Albuquerque church to avoid deportation is finally getting a second chance. It comes after a years-long battle with immigration officers.
Kadhim Al-Bumohammed, 66, was housed at a church next to UNM for 730 days. During that time, he missed some major milestones in his family’s lives, including graduations, a wedding, even his son’s funeral.
On Wednesday, his case was reopened and he will be allowed to leave the church without fear of deportation, for now. “I really appreciate you keeping me here today. Without you, I can’t do nothing. Thank you very much,” he said.
Al-Bumohammed came here from Iraq in 1994 and was granted “refugee status.” That all changed when he accidentally missed a deportation hearing.
In 2017, ICE instructed him to turn himself in for deportation, but instead, he elected to go to the First Congregational United Church of Christ for sanctuary. Al-Bumohammed has been staying there ever since, while his lawyers fought for him to stay in the U.S.
Wednesday, they announced the Board of Immigration Appeals decided to take another look at his case. His deportation order has been removed and he’s now able to apply for legal citizenship.
“I just hope this brings light to those that are still in sanctuary, knowing that the fight continues and that sometimes, you win,” said Al-Bumohammed’s attorney Rebecca Kitson.
Al-Bumohammed will now be reunited with his wife and kids. He says it will be a tough transition to life outside the church again, but he’s thankful for the opportunity.
The ACLU says Al-Bumohammed was originally targeted for his criminal record. He had a pair of misdemeanors dating back to the 1990s.