A local Imam disputed the story of a former American serviceman who said his sick mother died in Iraq after being barred from entering the U.S. under President Donald Trump’s executive order.
Imam Husam Al-Hussainy, leader of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Center in Dearborn, Mich., said that Mike Hager’s mother died before Trump put the immigration ban in place. The executive order blocks travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq.
Mike Hager told Fox 2 Detroit on Tuesday that he had traveled to Iraq before the order was implemented, with several family members who were permanent U.S. residents, when his mother fell ill. None of them expected any trouble on their return; Hager is a U.S. citizen, and his mother has lived in the U.S. since 1995. She had a green card, Hager told the station.
But when they checked in at the airport in Iraq, Hager claimed only he was allowed through. He left his family behind and returned to his home in Michigan. One day later, he told the broadcaster, his mother passed away.
TIME published a story based on the initial report. But Fox 2 Detroit later spoke to Al-Hussainy, who disputed the timing of Hager’s account.
Al-Hussainy said Hager’s mother was receiving treatment for kidney disease in Michigan before she traveled to Iraq on Jan. 20 to visit family. According to the Imam, she died while in Iraq on Jan. 22, five days before Trump signed the executive order.
Hager, the White House and the Iraqi Embassy in the United States all did not respond to requests for comment.