Hamoody Jauda, the blind Iraqi boy who came to the U.S. for surgery two years ago, has won asylum.
A little more than two years after coming to the U.S. from Iraq, Muhammed “Hamoody” Jauda, a 5-year-old blind boy who was shot in the face by Sunni insurgents, has been granted asylum.
When their pro bono attorney Steve Miller on Monday called Hamoody and his foster parents, Randy Smith and Julie Robinett Smith of Snohomish, with the news, the boy began shrieking with joy and jumping up and down.
“I’m an American now! I’m an American now! Now I get to stay with my mother and father and my sisters,” Julie Smith recalled him saying. “And then he started naming all the pets he gets to stay with.
“I didn’t realize how worried he was about this asylum thing,” she said.
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Immediately after a July 11 interview with an officer of the Department of Immigration and Naturalization who came up from San Francisco to interview Hamoody, he was visibly upset and clingy, fearful about being forced to return to a country and family he no longer remembers, Robinett Smith said.
She said he’d often ask, “Will you always take care of me? Will you love me forever?”
After the interview, the officer told Miller the only thing she’d be able to consider in granting asylum is whether religious persecution was the motivation for the attack on Hamoody and his family in May 2005, when he was blinded and left disfigured, his uncle killed, his mother and aunt seriously wounded in a shooting just outside of Baghdad.
Hamoody’s blindness and the potential emotional harm of being taken from his American family would not be factors in the decision, the officer said.
So Miller contacted Hamoody’s relatives in Iraq and obtained eyewitness statements of the attack.
The Muslim religion prohibits giving up children for adoption, but as long as the Smiths are content with being legal guardians, Hamoody’s relatives in Iraq are supportive of his asylum in the U.S., his uncle Adil Joda said.
While the asylum process can take years, in Hamoody’s case it was little more than one month after his visa expired. He’ll be eligible to get a green card and at 18 be able to become a citizen.
To the Smiths, who always said the boy’s fate was “in God’s hands,” asylum is an answer to their prayers.
Hamoody was brought here in May 2006 by Healing the Children, an Everett-based nonprofit that matches children needing medical care unavailable where they live with hospitals and doctors willing to donate it.
He spent the first year undergoing examinations and tests to determine if his eyesight could be saved. It couldn’t.
But since then he’s had two major facial reconstruction surgeries at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle, where cranio-facial surgeon Dr. Joseph Gruss rebuilt his sinuses, formed an eye socket so Hamoody could wear a glass eye and donated countless hours of care to the boy.
In the meantime, the Smiths have made Hamoody their own and are determined to give him a normal life, despite his blindness.
He’s been in a developmental preschool in the Snohomish School District, where he learned to read Braille and to navigate with a white cane. But next month he will be in the regular kindergarten classroom. Someday, he’ll go to college, Robinett Smith says.
“To us, he’s our son and we’re his parents,” she said. “That’s all that matters.”
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org