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Northampton Rally Supports Local Man Facing Deportation To Iraq


Hundreds rallied in Northampton today to support a local man who is part of a national group of 1,500 Iraqis facing imminent deportation. 

Demonstrators gathered in front of Northampton City Hall to rally on behalf of Niberd Abdalla, 57, who is sitting in a small jail cell about 80 miles away in Boston. Abdalla, who came to the United States when he was 15 was arrested last month.

His partner, Ellen McShane, said Abdalla had reported to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials every six months for the past seven years. But on June 8th, what they thought would be just another routine appointment ended with an agent telling her Abdalla could not go home.

She said she was shocked and devastated.

"It just seems so unreasonable because this is a man who is sweet, who is kind, who has nothing but love for other people, and to be treated as if he were a criminal or a threat to anyone is so absurd," said McShane.

Buz Eisenberg, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrant Protection Program  of Western Massachusetts ,who represents Abdalla said he faces an uncertain fate if he returns to Iraq. He has a serious respiratory illness.

" It is a pretty dire circumstance for him," said Eisenberg.  " He will not get the treatment his physician absolutely says he needs in Baghdad."

Eisenberg said Abdalla’s legal options for avoiding deportation appear to be few.

" Time lapsed and he was just here living like the rest of us and not thinking about his vulnerability," said Eisenberg.  " There are windows that have closed, but some may be open, which is my job to figure out."

Abdalla is among 1,500 Iraqi immigrants suddenly facing removal from the United States after living here for decades. The ACLU filed a class action suit in Michigan and a federal judge has stayed the deportation orders until July 24th.

The Northampton rally was organized by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. Lead organizer Margaret Sawyer said they collected 1,400 signatures on a petition and are looking to get letters from state politicians on Abdalla’s behalf.

" The more we raise our voices, and say not one more immigrant leaving our community the more we are raising awareness and hopefully achieving the immigration reform we've sought for so long," said Sawyer.

According to his lawyer and partner, Abdalla lived first in Chicago when he came to the U.S. in the 1970s.  He later lived in the Bronx and in upstate New York.

He’s lived in Northampton for several years, and took care of  his elderly parents who lived in Easthampton.  His mother died recently. 

The parents were naturalized U.S. Citizens.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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