U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported an immigrant detainee to his native Uzbekistan on Tuesday, just four days after he filed a lawsuit alleging that three ICE agents beat him and shocked him with a stun gun during a previous removal attempt.
Bakhodir Madjitov, 39, who was able to avoid deportation twice in the past, was denied a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon. He was forced to board a plane from Louisiana that night.
Madjitov, a caregiver who works with elderly people, wasn’t able to say goodbye to his family in person. He has never met his youngest son, who was born a week after ICE detained Madjitov in 2017. He won’t get the chance to appear in court for his civil rights suit against the U.S. government and ICE agents, which was filed on Friday in the Eastern District of New York.
Now Madjitov is headed back to Uzbekistan, where he fears he will be persecuted over his Muslim faith and family ties.
“Bakhodir should be with his family and holding his youngest son in his arms in America,” said Ahmed Mohamed, legal director at the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which worked on Madjitov’s case along with the New Haven Legal Assistance Immigrant Rights Clinic.
“Instead, he is being deported thousands of miles away from his wife and kids,” Mohamed said. “No family should be tortured in this way.”
ICE confirmed to HuffPost that Madjitov was removed on Tuesday.
“Madjitov received extensive legal due process before the U.S. courts, to include numerous appeals, and he was removed after the courts repeatedly found him to have no lawful basis to remain,” said Bryan D. Cox, the Southern Region’s public affairs director.
Immigrants who allege abusive behavior by the U.S. government have the odds stacked against them. Their rights are limited, as is their access to outside help. And they can risk being deported before they are able to achieve justice. Madjitov’s lawyers tried to obtain a temporary restraining order for an emergency stay, but it was denied.
“This is yet another shameful stain in American history,” Mohamed said.
Madjitov’s lawyers said they plan to fully pursue his lawsuit “and hold all responsible parties accountable.”
An ICE spokesperson told HuffPost the agency does not comment on pending litigation and said the “absence of comment should in no way be construed as to suggest that ICE thinks any particular lawsuit has merit.”
Trapped In Immigration Limbo
Madjitov first arrived in the U.S. in 2006, after he was granted a visa to perform at a music festival in Texas. Once in the U.S., Madjitov applied for asylum, citing persecution against political dissidents and devout Muslims, like his family. Madjitov had been arrested in Uzbekistan among scores of other protesters against an oppressive government, and feared he would be at risk of death there.
The U.S. rejected Madjitov for asylum, throwing him into the U.S. immigration system. For years, he appealed his case but was denied. In 2011, he received a final order of removal, but the Obama administration deemed him a low priority since he had no criminal record.
All of that changed when Donald Trump took office. Changes implemented by the Trump administration ― including severely limiting access to asylum claims, and making it harder for migrants to prove they are in danger of persecution or torture if returned to their countries of origin ― made it nearly impossible for those like Madjitov to receive asylum.
In 2017, ICE officials arrested Madjitov at his Connecticut home for overstaying his visa, and moved him from one detention facility to another. His wife, an American citizen, and his three children have begged for his release.
In June 2019, ICE attempted to deport Madjitov, even though he’d been granted a stay of removal at the time, according to his lawyers. In the early hours of June 10, ICE took Madjitov to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. He resisted, repeating that he had been allowed to stay, and began to scream for help.
“Defendants ruthlessly beat him, injuring his neck, and twice subjected him to painful tasings that burned his body,” his lawsuit against the ICE agents states. “After Mr. Madjitov’s screams for help drew a large crowd of bystanders, Defendants dragged Mr. Madjitov away.”
The lawsuit alleges that Madjitov sustained “serious injuries caused by the tortious and unconstitutional conduct of United States Government officials” when ICE agents attempted to force him onto a plane at JFK.
Madjitov said the illegal removal attempt resulted in long-term physical and psychological repercussions.
A Father Who’s Never Met His Son
While in ICE custody, Madjitov has undergone solitary confinement and contracted COVID-19, according to his family and lawyers. Last week, Madjitov was relocated to an ICE processing center and then to a staging facility.
“Bakhodir and his family have endured profound suffering since ICE tore them apart almost three years ago,” New Haven Legal Assistance Immigrant Rights Clinic said in a statement. “Bakhodir’s prolonged detention by ICE has always been unconscionable.”
During a press conference in New York City on Monday, Madjitov briefly spoke on the phone from custody, telling attendees he was fearful that he would be deported any minute.
His wife, Madina Mamadjonova, held out her phone for those around her to listen. Next to her was her youngest son, who carried a sign calling for his father’s sanctuary.
“History will not forget this. People will not forget this. Administrations will change and everything will change and ICE will be ashamed,” Mamadjonova said. “Traumatized children will remember what ICE did to their families.”