Photo courtesy of Fahime Mohammad.
Mahir Mohammad is awaiting deportation.
An Afghan immigrant who has lived here for more than 20 years was detained outside his south St. Louis home on Monday — and now faces a potentially "imminent" deportation.
Mahir Mohammad, 53, is part of a family that built a life from scratch
in Missouri after leaving Afghanistan. His nephews, Fahime and Qayum Mohammad, are the co-owners of the popular Sameem Afghan Restaurant in the Grove neighborhood.
A federal immigration official, who spoke to Riverfront Times
on background Friday, confirmed that Mohammad is being detained in Florence, Arizona, "pending removal from the United States of America." The official would not divulge the exact date of the planned deportation, but confirms it is imminent.
And that could spell a death sentence for Mohammad. He is disabled and suffers from liver problems, and his nephew Fahime says that he recently underwent multiple surgeries and requires "constant" monitoring and medication.
No less dangerous is the possibility that someone will kill Mohammad out of retribution, since two of his brothers served alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"After he gets outside the airport, where is he going to go?" Fahime asks. The condition of the country — which was recently hit with the largest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped by U.S. military forces
— lacks basic services and medical infrastructure.
Mohammad's family is distraught.
"He doesn't have any money on him," says Fahime "He’s unstable. Afghanistan doesn’t have hospitals where he could be admitted."
In a Facebook post yesterday, Fahime blamed his uncle's detainment on the "mass deportation" policies of President Trump. Those policies, Fahime wrote, are "severing and dismantling families."
Mohammad has been in the U.S. since 1995, says Fahime. According to online court records, he twice pleaded guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault over separate incidents in 1996 and 2002. More recently, in 2007, he was charged with felony possession of a firearm while intoxicated and a misdemeanor for possession of a defaced firearm. After spending about a year and a half in prison, Mohammad pleaded guilty and was released.
While noting Mohammad's criminal record, the immigration official tells RFT
that Mohammad's 2009 felony plea actually came six years after an immigration judge issued a deportation order against him. That action was delayed for various reasons, the official said, including Mohammad's extensive appeals and the general difficulty of obtaining travel documents from the Afghan government.
And while the Obama administration tended to defer deportations while appeals were still pending, the immigration official noted that that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now following the instructions of Trump's executive order
and the guidance issued by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly
, which which instructs state and local law enforcement to support the implementation of federal immigration policy "to the maximum extent permitted by law."
Family members says Mohammad was picked up without warning.
On Monday morning, after Mohammad dropped off his daughter at their south city home, a black SUV pulled up and disgorged seven ICE agents. Mohammad's wife watched as agents handcuffed her husband, though Fahime says she managed to provide them with Mohammad's medications before he was transported to a temporary lockup.
Fahime says he last spoke with his uncle yesterday.
"He says there are altogether seven Afghans that they have rounded up throughout the nation, and that they brought to the Arizona facility. They have all been told they will be deported on the 17th of this month."
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Mohammad's prison sentence totaled about a year and a half, not six months, as reported in a previous version. We regret the error.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com