An immigration judge yesterday granted a local man permanent legal status, marking the end of a four-year legal effort to stay in the United States with his wife.

“I really can't put into the words the overwhelming feeling that yesterday’s court victory brought,” said Niberd Abdalla. "We can just be what we were meant to be from the very beginning: a happy family. I am so humbled by the number of people who cared so much about one man's struggle just to stay here and to live. All the people who went out of their way to make this happen, the attorneys, the ACLU, the folks who broadcast it and put it in the papers, those who came to the rallies, children who wrote to me while incarcerated, and the religious leaders who comforted us. We have been blessed, and we only hope that we can somehow continue to share that good with those around me."

“The freedom and justice that the United States of America has traditionally held dear shone brightly yesterday,” said Ellen McShane, his wife. “My husband can, at last, live under the shelter of that freedom for the rest of his life. Without all the love and support of family, friends, and so many people we didn't even know, this never could have happened. There is still hope in our nation when the xenophobic, hateful actions of those who wish to exclude anyone who is ‘other’ are so roundly denied by the judge's warm and heartfelt words to Niberd: ‘Welcome to America!’”

Born a Kurdish Iraqi, Niberd Abdalla had been ordered deported to Iraq despite having lived in the United States for over 42 years, and despite facing great danger—including possible persecution, torture, or death—if returned to Iraq. While living in the Pioneer Valley, Abdalla had been reporting to ICE twice a year for many years. In June 2017, instead of being told to return to the ICE office in six months, he was taken into ICE custody and jailed. Abdalla received support from Western Massachusetts community members and advocates during his detention, including a rally in which 250 people demonstrated in front of Northampton City Hall to call for his release. The ACLU of Massachusetts secured his release from incarceration in late January 2018, after almost eight months in ICE detention.

In July 2018, the Board of Immigration Appeals—the administrative body that determines appeals from immigration courts—granted Abdalla’s motion to reopen his case. Yesterday, the immigration court ruled in his favor, allowing Adballa to remain legally and permanently in the United States with his family without fear of deportation.

“We are so delighted for Mr. Abdalla and his family,” said Bill Newman, an attorney in the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Western Regional Office. “Across the country, millions of other families can’t wait. Congress must pass legislation to create a path to citizenship, and Massachusetts must do all it can to keep families together, regardless of immigration status.”

“Justice was served when the Boston Immigration Court granted Niberd Abdalla’s application to change his status to legal permanent resident,” said Buz Eisenberg, ACLU cooperating attorney from the Northampton law firm of Weinberg & Garber. “We owe our success to the outpouring of love and support from the community here in Western Massachusetts, and the courage and endurance of Niberd, his wife Ellen McShane, and their family and friends. It has been an honor to be his lawyer.”

The ACLU of Massachusetts thanks its cooperating attorneys Buz Eisenberg and Megan Kludt.