PORTLAND, Maine — A Westbrook man who was detained by immigration agents in a Portland court last year is back in jail and again facing deportation.
Abdi Ali, a Somali national who has lived in the United States since he was a child, is serving a 20-day sentence in the Cumberland County Jail for violating conditions of a previous release.
Upon completion of this sentence, the 29-year-old will be held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is expected to appear in immigration court sometime after that, an official with the federal agency said.
Ali’s 2017 arrest stirred controversy as the first known example of immigration agents entering a Maine courthouse to detain someone. He was arrested while in court to plead not guilty on a drunk driving charge and faced deportation on the basis of a 2013 drug-possession conviction for which he had already served jail time.
At the time, Ali said that he feared he would be killed if he was sent back to Somalia, a country he left at the age of 7. He was subsequently granted release on bond by an immigration judge.
Since then, Ali was again arrested for drunk driving before being detained by Westbrook police on Feb. 1 for violating conditions of his release, according to ICE spokesman John Mohan. The agency also arrested Ali, who it had been seeking and considered “a serious public safety threat based on his continued criminal activity after being released” by an immigration judge, Mohan said.
Ali came to the U.S. from Somalia legally as a refugee in 1996, according to a previous interview and immigration documents reviewed by the Bangor Daily News. He is subject to deportation because he was never naturalized as an American citizen.
Ali’s lawyer, Robert Levine, could not be immediately reached for comment. The attorney told KeepMeCurrent.com, which first reported the arrest, that he is working to reverse Ali’s past drug conviction and that his client did not know at the time that it would expose him to deportation.
In September, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said that his jail will no longer honor ICE requests to hold people beyond their scheduled release without a supporting warrant and charge.
Mohan said that immigration agents arrested Ali on an outstanding warrant and that he will be issued a new immigration charge and have his bond canceled upon completing his criminal sentence.
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