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KFOX14 Investigates: Albuquerque family visits Iraqi refugee detained for month in El Paso

Albuquerque family visits Iraqi refugee detained for month in El Paso. (Credit: KFOX)

The family of an Iraqi political refugee facing deportation got to visit him at the detention center for the first time since he was taken last month.

Abbas Al-Sokaini's family drove from Albuquerque to El Paso to visit him Wednesday.

Al-Sokaini is one of 1,400 Iraqi refugees in the United State facing deportation to Iraq as the result of the Trump Administration's travel ban.

There is a class-action lawsuit to stop the deportations.

“We're just a normal family we're not trying to hurt anybody,” said Brenda Sisneros.

It's been nearly a month since Sisneros has seen her husband. The couple has been together for 20 years and each day without him has been agony.

“He's the backbone of our family and for him to not come home from work every day, it's just emptiness,” said Sisneros.

Last month ICE agents came to their home in Albuquerque and asked Al-Sokaini to go with them. He wasn’t due for his appointment for three more days. He agreed to go with them.

But Al-Sokaini never came home. Instead he was brought to El Paso.

His family is looking forward to finally seeing him, but they fear it could be the last time.

“My fear is that I'll get a call one day that he's on the plane going to the other side of the world,” said Sisneros.

Al-Sokaini helped the U.S. military during the first Gulf War and was given refugee status more than 20 years ago.

He also attends his wife’s Christian church.

For these two reasons, his family says, deportation is a death sentence.

“That scares me every day,” said Sisneros.

As KFOX14 Investigates has reported Al-Sokaini is one of 1,400 Iraqi refugees facing deportation and there is a class action lawsuit to stop it.

In 2003 he took a plea deal for a drug possession charge and served six months probation.

Since then his family says Abbas has been productive member of the Albuquerque community, he works three jobs, owns property, pays taxes and has 17 grandchildren.

“We went on with our lives and we built our family,” said Sisneros.

Then came the travel ban.

The Trump Administration took Iraq off the ban last after the country agreed to accept 1,400 Iraqi nationals.

The ACLU of New Mexico said Al-Sokaini was flagged because of his conviction from 17 years ago.

The ACLU is arguing in court that under U.S. and international law, it is illegal to deport anyone to a country where they face imminent danger, torture or death.

His family never thought they'd get caught in the middle of political agendas.

“He never (missed) an appointment,” said Sisneros.

In fact, they supported Trump's plan to deport criminals

“I like a lot of the administration’s ideas to protect our country and so did my husband. But we thought it would be people who were real criminals. My husband is not a criminal. My husband's a good man,” said Sisneros.

His daughter, Sandi, said she doesn't understand.

"It was a mistake 20 years ago, so let it go and put our family back together again,” said Sandi Mendoza.

She's had a difficult time explaining it to her children.

“How do you tell an 8-year-old they are losing the only grandfather they ever knew?” she said.

Al-Sokaini’s granddaughter Audrianna is 12 and the world of immigration and politics is still foreign to her.

She just wants to know when the grandfather who buys her school supplies and tells her to, "take charge in life," is coming back.

“He’s my only grandpa I’ve ever had,” said Audrianna.

A judge has ordered a halt to the deportation process.

But time on that stay is about to expire next week.

Al-Sokaini’s family is hoping the judge will grant a longer stay so that Abbas has a chance to fight his case, with his family behind him.

“He's an American. Maybe not on paper. But he is an American in his heart and his mind he loves America. This his home,” said Sisneros.

His family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with legal expenses. https://www.gofundme.com/3ywn0nk

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