Somali Refugee Teenager, Threatened With Deportation Over Dental X-Rays, Will Get to Stay in Oregon

He was thrown into adult immigration detention for two months because of junk dental X-rays.

A Gresham teenager and Somali refugee who was nearly deported under then-President Barack Obama got good news last week in the era of President Donald Trump, whose administration has sought to suspend immigration from Somalia and other predominately Muslim countries.

The U.S. government, under court order not to enforce Trump's ban, has granted the teenager permanent residency.

WW brought readers the story of Billal, the now-18-year-old Somali refugee, back in June, after he was thrown into adult immigration detention for two months because junk dental X-rays suggested he was more likely an adult not a child when he asked for entry to the U.S. at the border with Mexico.

Billal, who asked that his last name not be published for fear of drawing further attention to himself, had traveled from Somalia to Kenya and then South Africa, where he eventually boarded a plane for Brazil. From South America, he traveled solo to Mexico, making it to the U.S border in August 2015.

Billal lacked documents but told agents he was only 17. Officials sent him to Portland under a program for unaccompanied minors, but immediately began deportation proceedings against him.

They then used the dental records to support their case, violating the government's own rules on how it may determine a person's age. Officials released Billal from detention, in Tacoma, Wash., in February 2016, after lawyers successfully argued against authorities' reliance on the X-rays.

Billal says he's excited to be on a path to citizenship, which he can seek in five years. "It is really amazing," says Billal. "A lot of people have helped me."

One of his attorneys, Denisse Guadarrama, says Billal got lucky given the national climate. Had federal courts not rejected the Trump administration's ban on immigration from seven largely Muslim countries early last month, he would not be where he is today, she says.

"His case would still be pending," she says. "I think he just made it in the nick of time."