Lawsuit: U.S. citizen from Somalia illegally detained by immigration authorities

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Ali Abdalla became a U.S. citizen in 2003 but was detained in 2017, ACLU claims.

A Minnesotan who came to the United States from Somalia as a child refugee and became a U.S. citizen in 2003 was illegally jailed for 11 months by federal immigration authorities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota alleged in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

Ali Abdalla, 34, of Coon Rapids became a citizen when his father became a citizen, the ACLU said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized him in July 2017.

Six months into his incarceration for deportation proceedings, an immigration judge ordered Abdalla released, but ICE appealed the ruling. He was held for five more months until his attorney won his release in June 2018.

“It is indisputable that Abdalla’s current legal status as determined by the only tribunal competent jurisdiction to adjudicate the issue is that of a U.S. Citizen,” U.S. Magistrate David Schultz ruled in May 2018. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson adopted Schultz’s recommendation the following month and ordered Abdalla released from custody.

The lawsuit names a number of defendants, including Attorney General William Barr and other government officials, and asks for an unspecified amount in damages. An ICE spokesperson said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

Abdalla suffers from a brain injury from a laborer’s job when he was struck in the head by a pipe, said Ian Bratlie, his ACLU attorney. It makes communication with him difficult and he said his client was not in a condition to be interviewed by the news media.

Bratlie said Abdalla was taunted by other inmates in Nobles County jail and was given an anxiety medication, but Sherburne County authorities discontinued the medications when he was transferred.

“It was pretty rough on him,” he said. “The fact that they held him even after a judge told them he was a U.S. citizen is egregious.”

Abdalla entered the United States as a refugee at the age of 10 in 1996, Bratlie said.

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