August 16, 2017
Sarah Taymour of Ann Arbor said she’s been betrayed by the government. “My sister and I, we both served this country”, she said. “This is how they repay us?” Taymour and her sister Jowan, who were refugees from Iraq, had come to the United States, but returned to Iraq as civilian translators during the Iraq war. Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants to send their brother there. If that happens, Taymour believes he won’t have long to live. “They know you have a family member,” Taymour said, “Anyone who will help the U.S. military, they will execute you.”
Taymour’s brother, 41 year old Kamiran “Kam” Taymour, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a wife and three children, and owns an auto repair shop in Washtenaw County. But he’s been in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since June, held in a detention facility in Youngstown, Ohio. Sarah, Kam and the rest of her family came to the United States in the 1990s after spending three years in a refugee camp in Turkey after escaping Iraq. Their mother was Assyrian, an Iraqi Christian and their father was Kurdish Muslim. Sisters Sarah and Jowan who can both speak Arabic and Kurdish, would go back to Iraq as interpreters for the US military on the front lines, wearing full combat gear but without the weapons. Sarah served there until 2009. She said the interpreters were the first targeted by the enemy, even before the soldiers, because they were seen as traitors and their deaths would cause more damage to U.S. operations.
In 2010, Kam Taymour served six months on probation for a marijuana conviction. Back in June of this year he was one of more than 100 Iraqi Christians rounded up by ICE in southeastern Michigan. ICE said Kam has a prior state felony conviction for drug trafficking involving marijuana and a misdemeanor conviction and had been ordered removed back in 2011. But as in many cases, his deportation was not a priority and he remained in the country. His family said the charge was for manufacturing and delivering marijuana. They admit he used marijuana but said was not a dealer. “He’s never recommitted any crimes,” Kam’s wife Caroline Taymour said, “He’s never caused harm to anyone. He paid for his mistake.” With a new initiative under President Donald Trump, Kam’s marijuana conviction made him a renewed target for deportation although his family says his circumstances would put his life at peril if he were to return to Iraq. The family says he’s at added risk with his sisters having worked with the U.S. military, he’s Kurdish and because although Kam was raised Muslim, he has converted to Christianity.
Last week, the Ann Arbor City Council lent unanimous support to the Taymour family, passing a resolution citing his case and calling for ICE to use their discretion when deporting those who could be persecuted in Iraq. The resolution also askedMichigan Governor Rick Snyder to pardon the crimes of some of the Iraqi Christians so they are no longer a priority for deportation. “There are moments in our history where we do properly feel tremendous pride,” Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said, “There are moments in our history where we must feel shame and regret, and I think that we’re living one.” CouncilmemberJason Frenzel said, “It’s been monthly at least that we’ve been supporting individual citizens or groups of citizens.” The city has seen high profile cases including an ICE raid at a local restaurant and the deportation of longtime resident Lourdes Salazar Batista to Mexico. Ann Arbor city councilmember Zachary Ackerman was critical of ICE, “We’re a country of immigrants and wherever they can find the low-hanging fruit because they’re lazy bureaucrats at the Detroit field office. They’re not law enforcement officers looking to arrest violent criminals.” ICE Detroit Office spokesman Khaalid Walls reacted, citing ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan who stated, “ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
It’s not clear if or when the governor will pardon Taymour or other Iraqi Christians. “He’s an Ann Arbor resident and he’s actually a constituent of one of our wards here,” Ackerman said, “I just ask Governor Snyder as a member of our community and as a neighbor of mine that you do something to protect another neighbor.” Taymour recently filed to reopen is deportation case in immigration court and according to ICE, he will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his case. His lawyer, Russell Abrutyn said he didn’t know when the motion would be decided although the Taymour case was one of the first ones filed after the mass arrests in June.
For now, former war zone interpreter Sarah Taymour still fears the worst, that her brother will become a tool not just for Muslim extremists in Iraq, but the U.S. as well. “If they are so eager to send Kam to death they can just execute him here than send him to Iraq,” she said, fearing he will become a spectacle on the Al Jazeera news network. “They will behead him in front of everyone,” she said, “I don’t want to see my brother in an orange jumpsuit on the TV to be propaganda for (an) eastern country against a western country.”
Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit and Detroit Journalism Cooperative producer Bill Kubota talked with Sarah Taymour about her brother Kam’s situation and documented proceedings at last week’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting in two video reports.