NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A member of the Nashville Kurdish community said he is living in fear after a recent wave of arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Adris Hussein said ICE agents showed up at his door two weeks ago, scaring his nieces and nephews. As a result, he said he is afraid to go home, and the added stress is taking a toll on his mental health and family.
“I was shocked because I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Hussein. “I just want to live a normal life like everybody else.”
Hussein said his family moved to the United States in 1993 to escape the Gulf War. Hussein admitted he is being targeted by ICE because of a past criminal conviction on theft and aggravated robbery, but he says he's turned his life around and hoped to remain in the country that he calls home.
“I feel like I’m a puppet,” said Hussein. “I try and build up my life and they come and destroy it.”
In a statement, Thomas Byrd, a spokesperson for ICE said:
“As a result of recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, Iraq has recently agreed to accept a number of Iraqi nationals subject to orders of removal. As part of ICE’s efforts to process the backlog of these individuals, the agency recently arrested a number of Iraqi nationals, all of whom had criminal convictions for crimes including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, sex assault, weapons violations and other offenses. Each of these individuals received full and fair immigration proceedings, after which a federal immigration judge found them ineligible for any form of relief under U.S. law and ordered them removed.”
Nashville Immigration Attorney Joel Sanderson said hundreds of Iraqi nationals have been targeted in raids across the country over the last two weeks. He said a least a dozen people have been detained locally.
“It’s been a lot of nervous, upset people,” said Sanderson. “You are doing your job as a counselor like a lawyer, and a counselor who can talk to families to make them feel better about the situation.”
Sanderson said while each case is different, it becomes more complicated for individuals who have a criminal history or an order of removal. However, he said many people who have reached out to him have been living the U.S. for decades and don't have a serious criminal history.
“These people are not getting a chance to assert their rights,” said Sanderson. “They aren’t getting their day in court.”
Mayor Megan Barry responded to what she called “disturbing reports" with a letter to ICE last week. She accused ICE agents of undermining public safety by not clearly distinguishing themselves from local police. She also referenced allegations that non-criminal immigrants and refugees were being targeted for enforcement actions.
Nashville has the largest population of Kurdish residents in the U.S.