Black immigrant’s family torn apart by ICE

Philadelphia

Immigrant worker Christian M’Bagoyi was deported May 3, separating him from his spouse and two young daughters, ages 5 and 3, who are U.S. citizens. M’Bagoyi had been in the U.S. for 20 years, supporting his family and endearing himself to co-workers and neighbors in his South Philadelphia community. 

Christian M’Bagoyi and Sarika Kumar M’Bagoyi. Photo web source: Philadelphia Inquirer

President Joe Biden, who ran on a platform of making permanent citizenship possible for many undocumented workers, ignored the appeal of over 8,000 petitioners to let M’Bagoyi stay with his family. Yet on April 23, Biden announced measures that would allow thousands of new immigrants into the U.S., primarily from Ukraine, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

As of mid-April, 300,000 Ukrainians, most of whom are white, entered the U.S. under various programs since early 2022 — more than all the people from other countries admitted officially through refugee programs in the last five years.

M’Bagoyi came to the U.S. at age 21 fleeing oppression in West Africa. After entering the U.S. legally on a tourist visa, he stayed after it expired. He requested asylum but was denied. He was allowed to stay in the U.S. under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement order of supervision, for which he regularly attended meetings. 

M’Bagoyi has a Social Security number and earns a living as a carpenter. Because Biden never followed through with his promise of permanent citizenship, like millions of undocumented workers M’Bagoyi could have been picked up for deportation at a moment’s notice — and on April 19 he was.

When M’Bagoyi returned home from taking his children to school April 19, ICE agents were waiting for him. He was detained without warning, sent to Moshannon Valley Processing Center, then to a facility in Louisiana, then to Texas and then deported. While Biden was announcing plans to run for reelection on April 25, Sarika Kumar M’Bagoyi was desperately trying to find out where ICE had taken her spouse.

Press conference blasts anti-Blackness

Sarika Kumar M’Bagoyi, second to right from speaker, one of her neighbors who came to the press conference to support Christian M’Bagoyi, May 2, Philadelphia. WW Photo: Joe Piette

Speaking at a press conference for M’Bagoyi on May 2, Andy Kang, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, stated: “Only President Biden has the power to save M’Bagoyi and his family. To do otherwise would be immoral. President Biden also has the power to shut down the Moshannon Valley Processing Center, an 1,878-bed private facility in Clearfield County [Pennsylvania], where M’Bagoyi was initially sent. To do otherwise would signal he remains committed to a vision for our nation that relies on incarceration.”

Kang stressed, “We cannot turn the page on white supremacy but allow one of its most effective tools, our immigration system, to grind along as it preys on our families.”

Other speakers at the press conference noted that Moshannon is privately operated by GEO Group under contract with ICE. It was closed in March 2021, after the Federal Bureau of Prisons decided not to renew its contract, but reopened in November 2021 after receiving a contract with ICE under Biden’s administration. 

Kang noted, “All of this happened within one week, showing just how swiftly and coldly efficient our nation’s immigration system works when it comes to destroying families, while Congress has failed to make any real progress in decades.”

Also present at the press conference were several of Christian M’Bagoyi’s neighbors, who spoke fondly of his calmness and positive influence in their neighborhood. None had any experience with public speaking, but all felt it imperative they speak on the family’s behalf. 

The press conference was organized by the immigrant rights group JUNTOS, which issued a press release following M’Bagoyi’s deportation May 3 that read in part: “We recognize and uplift that immigration laws in this country are rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Black immigrants face a life of double jeopardy — constantly targeted by police and immigration enforcement, while facing disproportionate rates of detention and deportation. 

“We firmly believe that the merits of Christian staying in this country, like many other immigrants, outweigh any factors that led to DHS’ decision to deport him. We will continue fighting for Christian and Sarika and remain committed to helping them secure a future where their family can be together once more.”

Betsey Piette

Betsey.Piette@workers.org

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Betsey Piette

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