Somali activist Omar Jamal was found guilty Friday of lying to U.S. immigration authorities, but vowed to fight the conviction and possibility of deportation.
Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, said he believed a higher court would overturn the verdict.
Jurors found him guilty of five felony counts of immigration fraud. He is to be sentenced April 7.
With more than 20,000 Somali residents, Minnesota is home to one of the United States’ largest populations of refugees from the East African nation, which has been torn by civil war since the early 1990s. Jamal’s advocacy, particularly his criticism of the deportation of Somalis convicted of criminal or immigration offenses, has made him one of the state’s most prominent Somalis.
Jamal defense lawyer Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, said he hoped Jamal could avoid deportation. Jamal has no criminal record, is married to a U.S. citizen and has three young children born in the United States.
“We’ve been informed that the U.S. attorney has no interest in him actually doing jail time,” Erlinder said.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has imposed a nationwide ban on deporting Somali refugees to Somalia, saying the country has no central government to accept the deportees. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case of another Minnesota Somali, Keyse Jama, whose deportation has been stayed on the same grounds.